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The Roy Acuff Chair of Excellence

In 1985, country music legend Roy Acuff generously established an endownment to enrich the arts community at APSU and in Clarksville Montgomery County. The result was the Roy Acuff Chair of Excellence, which brings regionally and nationally acclaimed artists to APSU to share their expertise with students and the community in a dynamic atmosphere of unrestricted experimentation. 

The 2016-17 Acuff Chair of Excellence is:

Dorothy Allison

Poet and prose writer Dorothy Allison was raised in Greenville, South Carolina, by her young single mother. The first in her family to graduate from high school, Allison earned a BA at Florida Presbyterian College and also studied at the New School for Social Research in New York City.

Influenced by the 1970s feminist movement, Allison’s raw, frequently brutal work explores themes of class, sexuality, and abuse. In an interview while she was Zale Writer in Residence at Tulane University, Allison stated, “If you're trying to be safe, you got no business writing. If you're trying to control what happens, you really don't have a whole lot of chance. The only thing you can control is to create as full a portrait as possible. Then you can make people seem human.”

Allison is the author of the poetry collection The Women Who Hate Me: Poems 1980–1990 (1991). Her story collection Trash (1988) won two Lambda Literary Awards and the American Library Association’s Prize for Lesbian and Gay Writing. Her best-selling novel Bastard Out of Carolina (1992) was a finalist for the National Book Award and has been translated into more than a dozen languages, as well as made into a feature film. Her novel Cavedweller (1998) was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. She is also the author of the essay collection Skin: Talking about Sex, Class & Literature (1994) and the memoir Two or Three Things I Know for Sure (1995). Her work is featured in many anthologies, including The Writer’s Notebook: Craft Essays from Tin House (2009). She is the subject of Conversations with Dorothy Allison (2012), by Mae Miller Claxton, and the short documentary film Two or Three Things but Nothing for Sure (1998), by filmmakers Tina DiFeliciantonio and Jane Wagner. Her additional honors include the Robert Penn Warren Award for Fiction. 

Allison has been a contributing editor for the literary journal Tin House and has served on the boards of the Fellowship of Southern Writers, PEN International, and Feminists for Academic Freedom. She has taught at Davidson College, Emory University, and Columbia College. She lives in northern California with her family. (bio from

Former recipients of the Roy Acuff Chair of Excellence include:

Second City Fully Loaded (2015-2016) - Theatre & Dance

Cheryl Sanders Cirq du Soliel (2015-2016) - Theatre & Dance

Axis Dance Company (2015-2016) - Theatre & Dance

Rick Berger (2015-2016) - Theatre & Dance

Jeanette Lovetri, Somatic Voice Specialist (2015-2016) - Theatre & Dance

Lishi Lou and Lucky, Too (2015-2016) - Theatre & Dance

David Weinstein (2015-2016) - Theatre & Dance

Charles Niedich (2014-15) - Music

Willie Anthony Waters (2014-15) - Music

Anna Celenza (2014-15) - Music

Orchid Ensemble  (2014-15) - Music

Jo-Michael Scheibe (2014-15) - Music

Rhonda Larson (2014-15) - Music

Scott McCloud (2013-14) - American cartoonist and comics theorist, author of the classic study, Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art.

David Huddle (2012-13) - Esteemed poet, fiction writer, and essayist.

Rachel Keebler (2011-12) - Theatre Design

Sarah Haas (2011-12) - Dance

Second City (2011-12) - Theatre Performance

Peiling Kao (2011-12) - Dance

Tim Miller (2011-12) - Theatre Performance

Keith Fitzpatrick (2011-12) - Dance

Anne Marie Duggan (2011-12) - Lighting Design

Anthony Zerbe (2011-12) - Theatre Performance

The Ying Quartet (2010–11) - String Quartet

Sydney Guillaume (2010–11) - Composer and vocalist

William Bennett (2010–11) - World-renowned flutist

Paul Schoenfield (2010–11) - Composer and pianist

Clifton Ware (2010–11) - Internationally known vocal pedagogue, master teacher, tenor soloist and author.

Ian Berry (2009-10) - Contemporary art specialist, Associate Director for Curatorial Affairs and Curator at The Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College.

Louise Erdrich (2008-09) - Renowned author of twelve novels as well as volumes of poetry, children's books, and a memoir of early motherhood. 

Lawrence Goldhuber (2007-08) - Choreographer, dancer, actor, and performance artist who has worked in New York for more than 20 years.

The Second City Touring Company (2007-08) - Premiere comedy club, theatre, and school for improvisation.

Mark Block (2007-08) - The Southeast's premiere and most selective modeling and talent agency.

Annmarie Duggan (2007-08) - Nationally recognized Lighting Designer

Karen E. Maguire (2007-08) - Highly accomplished actress, writer, teacher, director, and producer.

7 Stages Inc./Bernard Koltes (2007-08) - A non-profit theatre company that focuses on social, political, and spiritual values of contemporary culture.

Cantus (2006-07) - An artist led, professional a cappela vocal ensemble with eight male members. 

Bodo Igesz (2006-07) - Famed opera singer and stage director of the Metropolitan Opera. 

Tony Plog (2006-07) - Conductor and composer with commissioned works from ensembles around the globe. 

John L.Whitwell (2006-07) - Director of bands, Professor of Music and Chair of the Conducting Area at Michigan State University. 

Lee Hoiby (2006-07) - American classical pianist and composer, one of the most notable living composers of classical vocal music. 

Linda Norlen (2005-06) – Graphic designer and critic.

Michael Blumenthal (2004-05) – Internationally renowned poet and memoirist, author of Against Romance and All My Fathers and Mothers.

Louis Fantasia (2003-04) – Internationally prominent actor, director, producer, theatre critic and arts commentator.

Elizabeth Walton Vercoe (2002-03) – Prominent 20th century composer.

Carol Scott-Kassner (2002-03) – Nationally known author of music education literature.

George McCauley (2001-02) – acclaimed ceramicist.

David Bradley (2000-01) – African American scholar and novelist, author of The Chaneysville Incident.

Kelly Morgan (1999-00) – nationally prominent actor, director, producer, choreographer, teacher and administrator in stage, film and television.

Dalton Baldwin (1998-99) – internationally acclaimed pianist.

Matthew Harp Allen (1998-99) – ethnomusicologist.

Donna Loewy (1998-99) – vocal coach/accompanist.

David Holsinger (1998-99) – eminent band composer.

Frederic Goossen (1998-99) – nationally known composer/music theorist.

Cedric Dent (1998-99) – Grammy award-winning singer, pianist, arranger, conductor and producer.

Frances Whitehead (1997-98) – internationally acclaimed sculptor.

Carolyn Forche' (1996-97) – poet and global champion of the oppressed and downtrodden.

Elizabeth Van Dyke (1995-96) – multi-award winning actress and director.

Tim Gerber (1994-95) – music educator and co-author of the popular text, Music! Its Role and Importance in our Lives.

Jim Nutt (1993-94) – internationally distinguished painter.

John Haines (1992-93) – two-time Guggenheim Fellow, poet and essayist.

Howard Stein (1991-92) – internationally acclaimed thespian, playwright and author.

Ron Nelson (1990-91) – nationally known composer of choral, band and orchestral works.

Ted Orland (1988-89) – nationally recognized photographer/artist.

David Madden (1987-88) – Southern fiction writer, playwright, critic and author.

Arthur Kopit (1986-87) – internationally acclaimed American playwright.

Please enjoy the following video tribute to Roy Acuff, presented by CECA and the Acuff Circle of Excellence.