St. Bonaventure University alumnus Dan Barry, author of this year’s common read, “The Boys in the Bunkhouse,” will visit campus Monday, Sept. 26, for classroom discussions and a keynote address.
Barry will address the Class of 2020 during a keynote address at 7 p.m. Monday in the Richter Recreation Center on campus. The talk is free and open to the public. Afterward, Barry will sign copies of “Bunkhouse” and his other books in the Richter Center.
“The Boys in the Bunkhouse: Servitude and Salvation in the Heartland,” released by HarperCollins in May, tells the story of dozens of men with intellectual disabilities who endured decades of exploitation — living in an old schoolhouse and working at an Iowa turkey-processing plant for little pay — before finding justice and freedom.
St. Bonaventure’s first-year students received copies of “Bunkhouse” during orientation in July. As their first official college assignment, they were asked to read “Bunkhouse” and then write a reflection on it. A number of area school and book clubs joined SBU’s Class of 2020 by reading “Bunkhouse,” including Olean High School’s Class of 2017, the Cuba Library, Bolivar-Richburg High School’s English honors class, and the First Presbyterian Church of Olean.
“This is the first All Bonaventure Reads selection that has garnered such widespread community engagement. Intellectual disabilities — especially with Dan as the masterful storyteller of the lives of these 32 men of the ‘Bunkhouse’ – provide fodder for rich discussions of divergent opinions,” said Jean Trevarton Ehman, chair of the All Bonaventure Reads Committee and director of the university’s Teaching and Learning Center.
“It is especially rewarding to have area high school students join the All Bonaventure Reads conversation. Lou Ventura, an Olean High English teacher instrumental in creating this Olean High and St. Bonaventure partnership, and Dan were St. Bonaventure undergraduate floormates and they have rekindled their collegiate friendship over this All Bonaventure Reads relationship,” she said.
“By highlighting the exploitation of these men, Barry reinforces the importance of one of the core Franciscan values at St. Bonaventure: recognizing the dignity of every person,” said Chris Brown, director of the university’s First-Year Experience program.
“As students learn more about the experiences of individuals with disabilities, I hope they are challenged to examine systems of inequality that still exist today,” he said.
Barry is a 1980 graduate of St. Bonaventure and this will mark the first time since the All Bonaventure Reads initiative was introduced in 2006 that a book by an alumnus has been selected. He earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from St. Bonaventure and is the author of three other books. He is a national columnist at the New York Times.
“It might be divine intervention that Dan, who was a first-semester freshman 40 years ago, was selected as this year’s All Bonaventure Reads author. When he addresses the current freshmen he can speak from experience about the expedition on which they just embarked; his St. Bonaventure journey began exactly four decades ago,” said Trevarton Ehman.
He was part of a Providence Journal investigative team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 1994 for a series of articles about Rhode Island’s court system. Barry has also been a nominated finalist for the Pulitzer Prize twice: in 2006 for his slice-of-life reports from New York and hurricane-battered New Orleans, and in 2010 for his coverage of the Great Recession’s effects on the lives and relationships of America.
Barry lives in Maplewood, N.J., with his wife, Mary Trinity, a 1981 alumna of St. Bonaventure, and daughters, Nora and Grace.
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