Dana Gioia

Judge Widney Professor of Poetry and Public Culture at USC

Adjunct Professor

  • Program:
    Arts Leadership, Musicology
  • Division:
    Scholarly and Professional Studies


Dana Gioia, an acclaimed poet and essayist who served two terms as chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), has been appointed the Judge Widney Professor of Poetry and Public Culture at USC by President C. L. Max Nikias.

“Dana Gioia exemplifies USC’s commitment to the fundamental role of the arts in society,” said Nikias, who, in his Oct. 15 inauguration address, announced the recruitment of interdisciplinary faculty superstars as a top priority. “Through his poignant verse, insightful criticism, and inspired leadership of the NEA, professor Gioia has helped millions of Americans experience the positive and transformative power of literature and the arts.”

Named after USC founder judge Robert Maclay Widney, the title of Judge Widney Professor is reserved for eminent individuals from the arts, sciences, professions, business and community leadership. Gioia’s university-wide appointment includes affiliations with USC College, USC Thornton School of Music, USC Marshall School of Business, and USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development..

Former Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, Gioia is an internationally acclaimed and award-winning poet. A native Californian of Italian and Mexican descent, Gioia (pronounced JOY-uh) received a B.A. and a M.B.A. from Stanford University and an M.A. in Comparative Literature from Harvard University. Gioia has published three full-length collections of poetry, as well as eight chapbooks. His poetry collection, Interrogations at Noon, won the 2002 American Book Award. An influential critic as well, Gioia’s 1991 volume Can Poetry Matter?, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle award, is credited with helping to revive the role of poetry in American public culture. Gioia’s many literary anthologies include Twentieth-Century American Poetry, 100 Great Poets of the English Language, The Longman Anthology of Short Fiction, and Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. His poems, translations, essays, and reviews have appeared in many magazines including The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Washington Post Book World, The New York Times Book Review, Slate, and The Hudson Review.

Gioia has written two opera libretti and is an active translator of poetry from Latin, Italian, and German. As chairman of the NEA, Gioia succeeded in garnering enthusiastic bi-partisan support in the U.S. Congress for the mission of the Arts Endowment, as well as in strengthening the national consensus in favor of public funding for the arts and arts education. Gioia’s creation of a series of NEA National Initiatives combined with a wider distribution of direct grants to reach previously underserved communities making the agency truly national in scope. Through programs such as Shakespeare in American Communities, Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience, NEA Jazz Masters, American Masterpieces, and Poetry Out Loud, the Arts Endowment has successfully reached millions of Americans in all corners of the country. Renominated in November 2006 for a second term and once again unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Dana Gioia is the ninth chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. Gioia has been the recipient of ten honorary degrees. He and his wife, Mary, have two sons.