This year’s Benefit for the Humanities features poetry readings by the Cave Canem cofounders Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady as well as a special reading by the Pulitzer Prize—winning novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen.

Because Ideas

© Copyright 2019 Modern Language Association

The Benefit for the Humanities will be held at the Sheraton Grand in downtown Seattle.

Toi Derricotte

Benefit for the Humanities

10 January 2020
Sheraton Grand Seattle


Toi Derricotte's sixth collection of poetry, "I": New and Collected Poems, was published in 2019.  Her other books of poetry include The Undertaker's Daughter, which won the 2012 PEN/Voelker Award for Poetry; Tender; and Captivity. Her literary memoir The Black Notebooks won the 1998 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Non-fiction and was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. With Cornelius Eady, Derricotte cofounded the Cave Canem Foundation. She is Professor Emerita at the University of Pittsburgh and a former chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.  She and Eady will receive the MLA's Phyllis Franklin Award for Public Advocacy of the Humanities at the 2020 convention.

Cornelius Eady

Cornelius Eady is a professor of creative writing and literature at Stony Brook University, Southampton. He is the author of more than a half dozen volumes of poetry, including Brutal Imagination, a finalist for the National Book Award for Poetry; and Victims of the Latest Dance Craze, recipient of the Academy of American Poets' Lamont Poetry Prize. Running Man, an opera based on his poetry, was a finalist for the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. In 1996, Eady cofounded the Cave Canem Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports emerging African American poets through regional workshops, retreats, book prizes, annual anthologies, and readings throughout the United States.

Show your institution’s commitment to students and faculty members in the humanities by sponsoring the MLA Benefit for the Humanities. Join a wide range of academic institutions and companies that have pledged their support for the study of language, literature, writing, and culture!

To learn more about levels of sponsorship and what your gift will support, please consult the sponsor information sheet or contact us at

CauseLocationFeatured Guests

The MLA thanks the following sponsors for their generous support of the 2020 Benefit for the Humanities.

Platinum Sponsor $25,000

Friday, 10 January  
8:00–10:00 p.m.

Sheraton Grand Seattle

1400 6th Avenue

Cirrus Ballroom, 35th floor


Gold Sponsor $10,000

Silver Sponsor $5,000

Bronze Sponsor $2,500

Participating Sponsor up to $2,500


Total raised by Paving the Way between 2016 and 2019

The Cause


The Benefit for the Humanities was launched in 2017, and since then attendees and donors have contributed more than half of all funding raised in support of the MLA’s Paving the Way campaign. This fund has supported grants for contingent faculty members; programs that encourage educational innovation and improve career opportunities; and lobbying efforts in Washington, DC.


Number of grants for students and teachers funded by Paving the Way in 2019


Career training fellowships and internships supported by Paving the Way since 2016

"The Connected Academics program gave me much more than a tool box for approaching the complexities of career development . . . this is not a program that tells you what to choose; it's a program that gives you more choices."  

Dantzel Cenatiempo, University of Washington

Funded by Paving the Way

 Photo of Toi Derricotte by Ted Rosenberg. Photo of Cornelius Eady by John Griffin. Photo of Viet Thanh Nguyen by Bebe Jacobs.  


Analyzing complex ideas. Using evidence to construct an argument. Seeing the world through anothers eyes. These are the skills that the humanities teach. And they are essential for building and sustaining a strong civil society.

This is why we invite you to support the fourth annual Benefit for the Humanities

In just three years, the Benefit for the Humanities has already had a significant effect on the lives of students and teachers. 

We will be announcing this year's special guests shortly. Stay tuned!


Viet Thanh Nguyen

Viet Thanh Nguyen is currently University Professor and Aerol Arnold Chair of English and Professor of English, American Studies and Ethnicity, and Comparative Literature at the University of Southern California. His novel The Sympathizer won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, the Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger (best foreign book in France), and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, among other awards. His other works include the short story collection The Refugees and two nonfiction books, Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War and Race and Resistance: Literature and Politics in Asian America. He is a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times and has received fellowships from the ACLS, the Radcliffe Institute for Advance Study, and the Guggenheim and MacArthur Foundations. His most recent publication is Chicken of the Sea, a children's book written in collaboration with his six-year old son Ellison.

SponsorsCauseFeatured GuestsLocationSponsors

and Ethics Matter

Protect the Future of Humanities Education.

Support the Benefit for the Humanities!


Featured Guests




EisnerAmper LLP

George Mason University, 
College of Humanities 
and Social Sciences

Hamilton College

JDM Benefits


Kerber Gost Agency

New York University, Department of English

New York University, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Ohio State University, 
Department of English


American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL)

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University


Rutgers University, 
Department of English

TIAA Charitable, Inc.

University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Department of English; Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures; College of the Humanities and Fine Arts

University of Michigan, Department of English Language and Literature

University of South Florida,
Department of English

Washington and Lee University

Macalester College

Swarthmore College

Chandrika K. Tandon