Kai Bird to Head Leon Levy Center for Biography

December 12, 2016

December 12, 2016

Media contact: Tanya Domi, tdomi@gc.cuny.edu, 212-817-7283

Pulitzer Prize-Winning Historian Kai Bird to Head Leon Levy Center for Biography

NEW YORK, Dec. 12, 2016 -- The Graduate Center of the City University of New York announced today that Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and journalist Kai Bird has been appointed Executive Director of the Leon Levy Center for Biography, effective January 27, 2017. He succeeds noted biographer and jazz and film critic Gary Giddins in this role.

Bird's work includes critical writings on the protagonists of important historical events, including the Vietnam War, Hiroshima, the Cold War, and the Arab-Israeli conflict. Known for his well-regarded biographies of political figures John J. McCloy, McGeorge Bundy, and William Bundy, Bird and his co-author Martin J. Sherwin won the Pulitzer Prize in Biography in 2006 for American Prometheus: the Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer, as well as the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Duff Cooper Prize for History. A memoir about his childhood in the Middle East, Crossing Mandelbaum Gate: Coming of Age Between Arabs and Israelis (2010), was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize.

Kai Bird's work, grounded in outstanding historical scholarship and masterfully written, makes him the ideal ambassador in and out of the academy for biography as a serious literary and historical discipline," said Chase F. Robinson, President of the Graduate Center. "The Leon Levy Center, unique among American universities, is dedicated to promoting excellence in the research and writing of biography and deepening public understanding of this genre."
Founded in 2007 through a grant from the Leon Levy Foundation, the Leon Levy Center for Biography is today one of the premier academic centers in the English-speaking world for the study and promotion of the art and craft of biographical writing. The Center offers four fellowships each year to writers of biographies, as well as two fellowships to dissertation students. It also sponsors a biography lecture in the fall, a conference or clinic on biography in the spring, and multiple public programs throughout the year.

"Kai Bird has an impressive record as a biographer, and we are confident that the Leon Levy Center for Biography will prosper and grow under his leadership," said Shelby White, founding trustee of the Leon Levy Foundation. "His expertise writing in the political and international spheres, such as his most recent book, The Good Spy: The Life and Death of Robert Ames, and his current project, a biography of President Jimmy Carter, is especially important these days. He will take the Center, which for nearly ten years has worked to promote excellence and innovation in biography, to new levels of achievement."
About The Graduate Center
The Graduate Center (GC) is the focal point for advanced teaching and research at the City University of New York (CUNY), the nation's largest urban public university. Devoted exclusively to graduate education, the GC fosters pioneering research and scholarship in the arts and sciences, and trains students for careers in universities and the private, nonprofit, and government sectors. With over 35 doctoral and master's programs of the highest caliber, and 20 research centers, institutes, and initiatives, the GC benefits from highly ambitious and diverse students and alumni -- who in turn teach hundreds of thousands of undergraduates every year. Through its public programs, the GC enhances New York City's intellectual and cultural life. Visit www.gc.cuny.edu to learn more.