Celebrating the Bergeron Fellowship, and our Bergeron Fellow 2023, Paul Yoon

Celebrating the Bergeron Fellowship, and our Bergeron Fellow 2023, Paul Yoon

This year, we were delighted to welcome Paul Yoon, a senior lecturer at Harvard University, as our Bergeron Fellow 2023. An accomplished author and award-winning novelist, Paul was excited to be at ASL and shared how moved he was by the dedication and commitment of our high school students. Read Paul’s bio at the foot of this article.

The Bergeron Writing Fellowship was established by high school English teacher Keith Millman in 1996. The fellowship Keith created is named in honor of former high school English teacher Luke Bergeron, who taught at ASL from 1973 to 1991, and is remembered for his creativity and deep commitment to his students. Mr. Bergeron passed away in October 1993. 

Traditionally, the Bergeron Fellow spends a week at ASL working with a middle or high school English class on a particular genre of writing, as well as holding workshops for English teachers, and delivering the Bergeron Lecture. All members of the community are invited to attend the Bergeron Lecture, which is part of ASL Speakers Series.

The week of Monday, 13 March, Paul worked with Grade 10, helping students write narrative fiction. He visited each section of English 10 in addition to holding office hours and meeting with various writing-focused clubs at ASL. As well as working with students, Paul collaborated with the English department and led a workshop with the entire department after school. 

On Wednesday, 15 March, Paul participated in a book club in the Lower School Library for adults in the community, around his novel, Run Me to Earth, before heading up to the Mellon Library to present this year’s Bergeron Lecture. We were thrilled to be joined by former ASL high school English teachers Keith Millman (ASL 1974-2014), Fellowship founder, and Kim Zeineddine P ’13 ’15 (ASL 1999-2019) and Miles Dunmore P ’06 ’07 (ASL 2001-20).

Interim Head of School Coreen R. Hester welcomed everyone to ASL and gave a brief history of the Fellowship, expressing her joy at seeing Keith, Kim and Miles back at ASL. Ms. Hester read the titular poem from the anthology of Luke Bergeron’s work, compiled to mark the inaugural year of the Bergeron Fellowship, Well Done, written in the year of his death, before handing over to high school English teacher Stephan Potchatek, who praised the concept of the Bergeron Fellowship and its inspiring influence on students and faculty alike. He opined, “We come together this week to do something special: to excite in this year’s Grade 10 students an interest in imaginative writing, and to excite something from the outside that might provoke and enliven our practice as educators.” Stephan went on to read Gary Snyder’s poem, Axe Handles, and pressed the value of storytelling.

The Lecture took a different path to previous years, and following a short reading by Paul from his novel, The Mountain, he and former Bergeron Fellow (2008) Ralph Sneeden held a lively conversation around the themes of mentorship, the writing life, a sense of place, and a desire to want to capture the world in their writing. Ralph and Paul were teacher and student at Phillips Exeter Academy back in the early 2000s, and their camaraderie and mutual friendship shone through.

And Paul and Ralph were not the only Bergeron Fellows in the room: Ben Faccini (2019), teacher of ASL Writers’ Seminar program, was also in attendance.

Of this year’s writer-in-residence program, Stephan Potchatek commented, “We’re here to celebrate storytelling, to celebrate literature and the literary imagination, to encourage students to create and to imagine and to see. And what Paul has done is to excite something in my colleagues and in our students, to excite the imaginative, to excite that part of our lives that is immeasurable and immeasurably important.”

Paul Yoon’s first book, the short story collection Once the Shore, was a New York Times Notable Book; and The Mountain, which was assigned to our Grade 10 students, was named an NPR Best Book of the Year. His first novel, Snow Hunters, won the Young Lions Fiction Award; and his most recent novel, Run Me to Earth, was longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction and named one of Time Magazine’s “must-read” books of 2020. 

Paul Yoon is a 5-under-35 award recipient from the National Book Foundation, and the recipient of several fellowships: one from the US National Endowment of the Arts; one from the New York Public Library’s Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers; and one from the Guggenheim Foundation. Paul’s latest book, The Hive and the Honey, will be published in the fall.