Michael Dana Gioia is an American writer, critic and poet. He retired early from his career as a corporate executive at General Foods to write full-time. From January 29, 2003, until January 22, 2009, he was chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the U.S. government's arts agency, and has worked to revitalize an organization that had suffered bitter controversies about the nature of grants to artists in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In August 2011, Gioia became Judge Widney Professor of Poetry and Public Culture at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, California.
He has sought to encourage jazz, which he calls the only uniquely American form of art, to promote reading and performance of Shakespeare and to increase the number of Americans reading literature. Before taking the NEA post, Gioia was a resident of Santa Rosa, California, and before that, of Hastings-on-Hudson, New York.
Michael Dana Gioia —his surname is pronounced "JOY-uh"— was born in Hawthorne, California, the son of Michael Gioia and Dorothy Ortez. His younger brother is jazz historian Ted Gioia. Gioia grew up in Hawthorne, "speaking Italian in a Mexican neighborhood", he said. His father was the son of immigrants from Sicily and his mother was a native Californian of Mexican heritage. He attended Junípero Serra High School in Gardena, California.
He earned his B.A. from Stanford University in 1973, an M.A. from Harvard University in 1975, and an M.B.A. from Stanford Business School in 1977. From 1971-73, he was editor of Sequoia Magazine and then its poetry editor from 1975-77.
After college, he joined General Foods Corporation and served as vice-president of marketing from 1977 to 1992. He was on the team that invented Jell-O Jigglers. From 1977-79, he was literary editor of Inquiry Magazine and served as its poetry editor from 1979-83. For the academic years 1986-89, he was a Visiting Writer at Wesleyan University.
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