The second annual memorial lecture honoring Armando “Mando” Alters Montaño ’12 will feature renowned author Stephen Kuusisto, a graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and a Fulbright scholar, whose new book, Have Dog, Will Travel, has just been released by Simon and Schuster.
The lecture on Tuesday, April 10, will honor the memory and spirit of Montaño, a gifted journalist who died at the age of 22 in June 2012 in Mexico City, where he was working as an intern for the Associated Press. His parents, Diane Alters ’71 and Mario Montaño, plan to attend the lecture, which they endowed, again this year.
Kuusisto, who is noted for his creative nonfiction and poetry, will read from his work at 8 p.m. in Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center, Room 101, 1115 Eighth Ave., Grinnell.
“Stephen Kuusisto is a fiercely intelligent, wildly funny, and incredibly big-hearted writer,” says Dean Bakopoulos, co-director of the Writers@Grinnell series and a former professor of Montaño’s. “His work is a wonderful example of the perceptive, imaginative, and fearless writing that Mando cared about so deeply.”
In addition to Have Dog, Will Travel, Kuusisto has authored two other memoirs, Planet of the Blind (a New York Times Notable Book of the Year) and Eavesdropping: A Memoir of Blindness and Listening. He is also an acclaimed poet, and his poetry collections include Only Bread, Only Light, and Letters to Borges.
A frequent speaker in the United States and abroad, Kuusisto teaches at Syracuse University, where he holds a professorship in the Center on Human Policy, Law, and Disability Studies. He formerly taught at the University of Iowa, Ohio State University, and Hobart and William Smith colleges.
In addition to the lecture, there will be a roundtable discussion about creative nonfiction with Kuusisto and Tessa Cheek ’12, a classmate of Montaño. It will begin at 4:15 p.m. in Rosenfield Center, Room 101. Both the discussion and lecture, sponsored by Writers@Grinnell, are free and open to the public.
Cheek is a writer, reporter, and candlestick maker living in Ridgway, Colorado. She holds a master’s of fine arts from Hollins University, where she served as a teaching fellow, graduate assistant, and assistant poetry editor of the Hollins Critic.
She edits copy for the Groundhog Poetry Press and directs social media for political literary magazine Scoundrel Time. She has reported from Colorado’s Capitol and served as news editor for a small-town paper. In 2017, her novel-in-progress won the Melanie Hook Rice Award in the Novel and her short story, “The Devil’s Terrible Nearness,” was nominated for the Best of the Net Anthology and a Pushcart Prize.
Armando Montaño ’12
The Armando Alters Montaño ’12 Writers@Grinnell Endowment Fund has been established by the parents of Armando “Mando” Montaño ’12, who died in June 2012 while working as an intern with the Associated Press in Mexico City.
Diane Alters ’71 and Mario Montaño have created the fund through a bequest to Grinnell College. The fund will support the Writers@Grinnell program in memory of their son’s dedication to nonfiction and fiction writing, journalism, and the creative process.