Three years after Steinbeck's death, an English professor, Martha Heasley Cox, organized one of the first scholarly conferences on the author. In 1974, the President of San José State announced that the university had purchased 180 Steinbeck books, including signed first editions. The inscription on the Center's East of Eden reads, "John Steinbeck, son of Olive Hamilton."
It's the largest collection of Steinbeck material in the world, housing over 50,000 items, including: letters by Steinbeck, letters to Steinbeck from John F. Kennedy, Carl Sandburg, and Ingrid Bergman congratulating him on receiving the Nobel Prize, over 1200 photographs, his personal stamp, Pigasus, with an inscription in Latin below: "To the stars on the wings of a pig", his pencils and portraits of the author.
The collection, currently located in the Martin Luther King Jr. library on the San José State campus, includes all primary and secondary works, original films and videos, artwork and memorabilia.
What Does the Center Do?
- Publishes (with the University of Idaho Press) the only Steinbeck journal in the US, the award winning Steinbeck Studies.
- Awards the John Steinbeck Award: "in the souls of the people" annually to an artist, writer, or performer whose work captures the spirit of Steinbeck's social engagement. Past recipients include Bruce Springsteen, John Sayles, Arthur Miller, Jackson Browne, Studs Terkel, and Joan Baez
- Maintains a website on Steinbeck for readers, teachers, students and scholars: www.sjsu.edu/steinbeck//steinbeck/
- Promotes "Steinbeck for the Schools" by providing materials and outreach programs to high school teachers, photographic exhibits to schools and libraries, and tours and programs at the Center.
- Sponsors major international conferences every 4–6 years
- Coordinates the authorized Steinbeck Society nationally and internationally through the web site and Steinbeck Studies.
- Awards a yearly Steinbeck Fellowship to a scholar working on Steinbeck and the annual Louis Owens Essay Prize to the best undergraduate or graduate student essay on John Steinbeck
Dr. Susan Shillinglaw
Susan Shillinglaw, professor of English and director of the Center for Steinbeck Studies at San José State University, is a noted Steinbeck scholar. She is also serving as an editor and contributing writer for coverage of John Steinbeck and East of Eden on Oprah.com.
The Center for Steinbeck Studies at San José State University
Dr. Susan Shillinglaw, Director