UNT Mayborn Graduate Institute of Journalism announces biography fellowship recipient

Judith Bula Wise and James Morris
Judith Bula Wise, University of Denver professor emerita, will be mentored by biographer James McGrath Morris after winning the 2015 Mayborn Fellowship in Biography. She was honored at the University of North Texas' Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference July 18. Photo courtesy of Junebug Clark.
Friday, July 24, 2015 - 12:34
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DENTON (UNT), Texas -- Judith Bula Wise of Boulder, professor emerita of social work at the University of Denver, has been awarded the 2015 Mayborn Fellowship in Biography from University of North Texas' Frank W. Mayborn Graduate Institute of Journalism.

The fellowship is co-sponsored by James McGrath Morris, a founder and president of Biographers International Organization and author of four biographies.  

The fellowship has been given annually since 2011 to provide an emerging biographer who has started researching or writing a manuscript with a two- to three-week residency in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and mentoring from Morris. The residency is intended to provide a concentrated period of uninterrupted time to work, solitude and inspiration.

The winner of the Mayborn Fellowship in Biography is announced each year during the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference, which is hosted each July by the Graduate Institute of Journalism, part of UNT's Frank W. and Sue Mayborn School of Journalism. The conference brings together approximately 300 participants who are interested in writing narrative nonfiction to learn from renowned journalists and storytellers in different genres.

Wise was recognized with her fellowship July 18 at the conference's Literary Lights Dinner, which featured Barbara Ehrenreich, author of "Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America," as keynote speaker. In addition to the residency in Santa Fe, she received a $500 stipend for the residency and free registration to this year's Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference. She will also do a reading of her manuscript at the end of her residency, which will be scheduled at a later date.

Wise is writing a biography of Edna Baldwin, an early 20th-century playwright, director and producer. She learned about Baldwin from Dr. DeWitt C. Baldwin Jr., Edna's son and Wise's longtime friend and colleague. Edna's husband, DeWitt C. Baldwin Sr., was a Methodist minister and missionary, and the Baldwins lived in Rangoon, Burma, during the 1920s, while the younger DeWitt was growing up.

"I heard many stories from him about his childhood in Burma," Wise said.

Edna Baldwin died in 1986 and her husband died in 1993. When DeWitt Baldwin Jr. and his wife were cleaning out boxes in storage, they wondered what to do with his mother's many letters exchanged with family and friends while she was in Burma.

"He and his wife gave me a suitcase full of letters, and another suitcase of 14 notebooks that was an autobiography written by Edna's father, who was also a Methodist minister. The notebooks gave me information about Edna's childhood," Wise said.

Wise joined the University of Denver's Graduate School of Social Work faculty in 1987. During her 17 years with the school, she directed the Family Therapy Training Center and the doctoral program, and she coordinated the Trauma Response Certificate Program. She became a professor emerita in 2005. Wise also taught at Columbia University's School of Social Work.

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