Glenn Schaeffer, 77MFA, has earned a reputation as a renaissance executive whose substantial success in the business world has been equaled by his contributions to the literary world.
Schaeffers unlikely journey to the top of the hotel and resort industry has its roots in his years at Iowas Writers Workshop. According to his own story, a visiting novelist issued to him a professional warning that is often mentioned to aspiring writers: If you can do anything other than writing, do it.
Schaeffer took this advice to heart. After earning an M.F.A. in fiction writing in 1977, he entertained careers in finance and public relations before joining the hotel industry, where his intelligence, clear-sightedness, and imagination quickly yielded results. From his first job as corporate vice president for Ramada, he worked his way up to become the president and chief financial officer of the multibillion-dollar Mandalay Resort Group. In 2005, the year the Mandalay Bay Resort merged with MGM Mirage, the Mandalay Bay Resort Group rented one percent of all hotel nights in the U.S. With the merger, Schaeffer left the company and has now embarked upon the creation of a new multibillion-dollar hotel resort, the Fountainebleau.
As his worldly success has grown, Schaeffer has become a potent philanthropist in the national and international literary community. At the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, he established the International Institute of Modern Letters—also called the Black Mountain Institute—which promotes, translates, and protects international writers. In 2000, he established Las Vegas as the first U.S. City of Asylum, a refuge for writers who have had to leave their native countries. He has supported young writers worldwide, establishing the Schaeffer Fellowships to enable an exchange program designed to bring emerging American writers in contact with those of New Zealand.
Although his literary interests have taken him all over the world, Schaeffer has maintained his commitment to and respect for the Writers Workshop. He visits Iowa City regularly, has provided students with important opportunities through the Schaeffer Fellowships, and has made generous contributions to the Workshop Library.
Most significantly, Schaeffer is the primary donor for the new Glenn Schaeffer Library and Archives. This beautiful addition to the workshops existing home in the Dey House provides a wonderful space for creative and academic work, as well as a gathering place for community events such as the Writers Workshop Lecture Series.
Schaeffer also continues to pursue his love of literature and the arts in other important ways: he sits on the board of the National Poetry Series, is an avid collector of American minimalist paintings, and has a broad collection of first editions of American poetry, including many works by Walt Whitman, his favorite poet.
Says Writers Workshop director Lan Samantha Chang, Through his generosity that funds this beautiful space, Glenn Schaeffer has enhanced our program, and therefore the university, in a substantial way. All of us at the workshop feel proud of and grateful for his generosity, which enhances our position as the center for the best writing in the nation.
Schaeffer is a gold-level member of the UI Foundations Presidents Club.