New York City, May 30, 2012—Steven L. Isenberg, who has served as Executive Director of PEN American Center since 2009, announced today in a letter to PEN’s President and Board of Trustees that he will end his tenure at the close of 2012.

“I wish to inform the Board that I will be leaving at the end of this year. I write to you now to give ample time for the search for my successor and to ensure a smooth, effective transition. By year’s end, PEN American Center will have finished celebrating its 90th anniversary, and I will be 72. Taking that together with the strength of our accomplishments, the course that we have set, and our staff’s readiness for the future, I am confident that my decision is right not only for me, but also for PEN. We can look back over these last three years with great satisfaction, especially in how we met the times with energy and resolve.” 

The letter in its entirety can be found here.

In response to Steve’s announcement, PEN President Peter Godwin said:

“Steve has been an extraordinary Executive Director of PEN American Center. Under his watch, over the last three years, the workings of the organization have been streamlined and modernized. I think he leaves PEN in a much better state for all this. Steve’s commitment to our core values of freedom of expression has been steadfast. His energy is infectious and his love of literature shines through everything he does. His experience and wisdom in matters administrative have been crucial to the way we work. He has helped me enormously in my first few months as president of PEN, and I know he will continue to do so for the rest of the year, until his very last day. PEN has been very fortunate to have him. The Board will take up planning a search for Steve’s successor when we meet next week.”

Former PEN President Anthony Appiah said:

“Steven Isenberg arrived when PEN was under incredibly difficult financial circumstances and has brought us through to new levels of achievement with many new sources of funding. He has established us in the world of the great foundations—Mellon, Ford, Open Society Foundations and Carnegie, and given us the credibility to develop our relationships with them and with their peers. Time and again he has spoken for us, here and abroad, with just the right tone. He will be leaving an office of talented people, a good number of whom he has hired, and all of whom he has helped to work together congenially as an effective team. And, speaking as the last president, I can say that he has worked wonderfully well with PEN’s leadership to chart our path through challenging times. In short, Steve Isenberg has been a terrific executive director, and he will be sorely missed. We are grateful for all his fine work and I would like personally to wish him all the best in his new life after PEN.”

PEN American Center is the United States branch of PEN International, which was founded in 1921 as a response to the ethnic and national divisions that culminated in the First World War. Since its founding, PEN has worked to promote international understanding through the promotion of literature and the defense of free expression. PEN American Center was founded in 1922 and is the largest of the 145 PEN centers in 104 countries that constitute PEN International. Its distinguished Members carry on the contributions and achievements of such past Members as W.H. Auden, James Baldwin, Willa Cather, Robert Frost, Allen Ginsberg, Langston Hughes, Thomas Mann, Arthur Miller, Marianne Moore, Eugene O’Neill, Susan Sontag, and John Steinbeck. Recent presidents include Francine Prose, Ron Chernow, and Salman Rushdie.

For more information, contact:
Emma Connolly, (212) 334-1660 ext. 103