Brennan O’Donnell, president of Manhattan College and a scholar of 19th-century British literature, received the 2014 Robert Fitzgerald Prosody Award on June 4 at West Chester University’s Poetry Conference, the largest poetry-only conference in the country. The award is presented to recognize scholars who have made a lasting contribution to the art and science of versification, and is the only prosody prize in the world.
Unique among literary and academic prizes, the Fitzgerald Award was established at West Chester University in 1999 in honor of the poet and critic Robert Stuart Fitzgerald, best known for his poetic translations of ancient Greek and Latin, in addition to several books of his own poetry.
O’Donnell is the 19th president of Manhattan College and began the role on July 1, 2009. He is the author of two studies of the poetic technique of William Wordsworth, entitled Numerous Verse and The Passion of Meter: A Study of Wordsworth’s Metrical Art.
“His highly original scholarship has expanded our understanding of the English Romantics,” said Dana Gioia, a former Fitzgerald student, past chair of the National Endowment for the Arts, and a member of the selection committee since the inception of the Prosody Award.
Co-editor of The Work of Andre Dubus, O’Donnell has written and lectured widely on poetry, religion and literature, and on issues in higher education. From 1993 to 2000, he was a member of the National Seminar on Jesuit Higher Education and for six years, edited the national magazine Conversations on Jesuit Higher Education.
“I am honored and humbled to have my work acknowledged in the ranks of so many great scholars in this field,” said O’Donnell. “I’ve learned a great deal from them through the years, and it is gratifying to think that I may have contributed with them to our understanding.”
Prior to working at Manhattan College, he was dean of Fordham College at Rose Hill, Fordham University’s oldest and largest school. O’Donnell also spent 17 years at Loyola University Maryland, where he was a professor of English and, from 1999-2004, director of the university-wide honors program.
A graduate with the highest distinction and honors in English from Penn State in 1981, he earned his master’s and Ph.D. degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in English and American Literature and Language.
Past recipients of the Robert Fitzgerald Award include Derek Attridge, T. V. F. Brogan, Edward Weismiller, Paul Fussell, George T. Wright, Timothy Steele, Marina Tarlinskaya, John Hollander, Robert B. Shaw, Lewis Turco, Annie Finch, Thomas Cable and Charles Hartman.