The Tony and Drama Desk award-winning musical writer and star Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02 received one more honor to put on his resume when he was announced last week as a recipient of a 2015 John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation fellowship. Miranda, who also received an Honorary Degree from the University in 2015, was one of the 24 fellows for the MacArthur “Genius” Grant. The award comes with a stipend of $625,000 over five years.
“The MacArthur Fellowship is a five-year grant to individuals who show exceptional creativity in their work and the prospect for still more in the future,” the MacArthur Fellowship website reads.
To be a fellow, an individual must be nominated by someone other than themselves. It is determined through the consideration of the individual’s prior achievements and speculation about their development into future successes.
“The fellowship is designed to provide recipients with the flexibility to pursue their own artistic, intellectual, and professional activities in the absence of specific obligations or reporting requirements,” the website reads.
Julia Stasch, the president of the MacArthur Foundation, said in a statement on the foundation’s website that the work, inventiveness, and commitment of this year’s fellows inspire everyone.
“These 24 delightfully diverse MacArthur Fellows are shedding light and making progress on critical issues, pushing the boundaries of their fields, and improving our world in imaginative, unexpected ways,” her statement reads.
Miranda is currently performing on Broadway as the lead role in the musical “Hamilton,” whose music and lyrics he wrote himself and which is currently playing sold-out shows. He also wrote the musical “In The Heights” during his time at the University. After “In The Heights” debuted on Broadway, it won the 2008 Tony Award for Best Musical.
In addition to his two Broadway originals, Miranda also co-wrote the music and lyrics for “Bring It On: The Musical.” He has appeared on several television shows, composed several songs, has appeared in various theater productions, and is also a member of the improv hip-hop group Freestyle Love Supreme.
“[Miranda is] expanding the conventions of musical theater with a popular culture sensibility and musical styles and voices that reflect the diverse cultural panorama of the American urban experience,” the website reads.
Other winners include bestselling writer Ta-Nehisi Coates and painter Nicole Eisenman, whose work focuses on the role of gender and sexuality in society.
When Miranda received the phone call informing him of his grant, he initially thought that the cable company was calling to beg him to reconsider his recent service cancellation. He said the recognition he’s received for his work has been a pleasant surprise.
The MacArthur Fellowship comes with no stipulations for use of the $625,000 grant. The foundation’s managing director said that the grant comes with no guidelines regarding spending and that the funds can be used in anyway the fellows want.
“By adopting a ‘no strings attached’ policy, we provide the maximum freedom for the recipients to follow their creative vision, whether it is moving forward with their current activities, expanding the scope of their work, or embarking in entirely new directions,” the website reads.
According to the New York Times, Miranda will donate some of his grant money.
“Mr. Miranda said he would donate some of the prize money to ‘organizations that I have fallen in love with,’” The New York Times reported on Sept. 29.
Last Friday, Miranda held a special University-only night for “Hamilton” on Broadway, with all of the proceeds from the show going to University financial aid. The more than 1,300 audience members included alumni, students, faculty, staff, and friends. Through additional scholarships and ticket sales, the night raised more than $1.5 million for financial aid.
University President Michael Roth expressed his pride at Miranda’s achievement.
“I was delighted to learn about Lin’s award the morning it was announced,” Roth wrote in an email to The Argus. “He is a most deserving recipient of this great honor. I am sure he will use the freedom the award affords to continue his amazingly creative work.”
Barbara Jan-Wilson, Vice President for University Relations, said that she had the privilege of admitting Miranda to the Class of 2002, when she held the position of Dean of Admissions.
“We knew immediately he would be a creative genius,” Wilson wrote in an email to The Argus.
She also said that the University as a community is incredibly proud of Miranda, stating that at least five alumni had sent her links to the New York Times article announcing the MacArthur winners before 6 a.m.
“Alumni are always delighted when they can bask in the reflective glory of any member of the Wesleyan community, especially when it is someone as generous and wonderful as Lin-Manuel,” Wilson wrote.