Lester Goran, Founder of UM's Creative Writing Program, Dies at 85

College of Arts & Sciences and UM Community Mourn Founder of Creative Writing Program and 54-Year Professor of English

Lester Goran
Photo by Donna Victor

Lester Goran – a talented writer, inspirational teacher, and founder of the Creative Writing Program in the College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Miami – passed away yesterday. He was 85.

During a career in the College that spanned half a century, Professor Goran helped more than 20,000 students find their voices and tell their stories.

Former students recall his use of bizarre phrases (such as “Throw a cat out the window!”) to inspire them to look for surprises in their work. They remember a fantastic storyteller, who was quick to both praise and criticize their work, as needed. Many say that, without his guidance, they would not be writers today.

Professor Goran joined UM’s College of Arts & Sciences faculty in 1960, and helped to establish the first creative writing curriculum at UM in 1965. He was also instrumental in establishing the MFA program in 1991.

Professor M. Evelina Galang, Director of the Creative Writing Program said, “Lester Goran was a writer who practiced his craft to the end. In doing so, he was a master who by example, lecture and encouragement, ushered several important writers into this world - among them Terrence Cheng, Chantel Acevedo, Michelle Richmond, Paul Perry, and Crissa Jean Chapel. He was a bright light who made the University of Miami's Creative Writing Program what it is today.”

Throughout his long and illustrious teaching career, Professor Goran wrote prolifically, penning eight novels, a memoir, and three short story collections. Many of his works are set in Pittsburgh, where he grew up in a tough neighborhood before earning both B.A. and M.A. degrees from the University of Pittsburgh.

In a 2010 interview, Goran said he was drawn to writing to explain his life. “I couldn’t understand myself unless I partially fictionalized myself into a drama. Produced, directed and written by myself.” He added that he loved teaching, “dealing with many young people that are on the edge of self-discovery.”

College of Arts & Sciences Dean Leonidas G. Bachas said, “A great University is built on a strong faculty, and Lester Goran is a shining example of our excellent team in the College of Arts & Sciences. We are all very proud of the creative writing program, which Lester started in 1965. He has enlightened our community for 50 years, and his legacy will continue to live on in our students and their writings.”

During the 2010-11 academic year, the Creative Writing Program organized the Goran Reading Series, in honor of his 50 years of service. Four prominent writers who had studied with Goran offered public readings, master classes, and community workshops. The Program also established the Lester Goran Endowed Creative Writing Fellowship to offer emerging writers the opportunity to create.

For more information on the Creative Writing Program, please visit https://www.as.miami.edu/english/creativewriting/.

February 07, 2014