The great American writer Wallace Stegner was born on February, 18, 1909 in Iowa, just seven years after the death of John Wesley Powell, but he was raised in the West—Utah, North Dakota, Washington, Montana, Wyoming, and on the last homestead frontier, in Saskatchewan.
As Stegner blew “tumbleweed-fashion around the continent,” he became a citizen of the West. Once he left Iowa as an infant, he never ventured back east of Cheyenne until he was 21. Indeed, the whole West was home, and though I know he treasured his summers in Vermont, it’s hard for me to think of him as anything but a westerner. No one understood The American West as Living Space better.
The University of Utah is celebrating the centennial of his birth during the academic year 2008-2009. I’m participating by serving as a Stegner Fellow at the Tanner Humanities Center (with financial support from Dan Johnson at Chevron, for which I’m grateful) and co-teaching a class on “Wallace Stegner & Western Lands” in the Honors College. The Stegner Center at the University of Utah Law School will host a stellar group of speakers at the centennial symposium on March 6, 2009.
On this blog, you can participate, as well, as I take Stegner on the road–under the auspices of the Utah Humanities Council’s Public Square Program–across the state that he always thought of as home.