Founding Executive Director
Donald G. Evans founded the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame in 2010 as a project of the Chicago Writers Association, where he had been a board member. The CLHOF branched out and became its own nonprofit organization in 2013. As executive director of CLHOF, he conceives and enacts the diverse endeavors of the organization—providing educational programming, mounting literary exhibits and events, collaborating with other literary and arts groups, and most notably, leading the planning and production of CLHOF’s annual induction ceremony.
Complementing his CLHOF duties, Don contributes his expertise to the American Writers Museum’s programming committee and, for the past six years, he has served on the Near South Planning Board committee to select the winner of its annual Harold Washington Literary Award. Don cultivates CLHOF’s many partners through his active membership in an array of organizations, including Chicago Writers Association, Society of Midland Authors, Cliff Dwellers, Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature, and Associated Writers Programs. Don is the author of the novel Good Money After Bad and the short story collection An Off-White Christmas, as well as editor of Cubbie Blues: 100 Years of Waiting Till Next Year. He was named to the Newcity Lit 50: Who Really Books in Chicago Hall of Fame.
President of the Board of Directors
Amy Danzer works at Northwestern University where she manages several master’s programs, including the MA in Writing and MFA in Prose and Poetry programs, directs the Northwestern University Summer Writers’ Conference, serves on One Book One Northwestern’s steering committee, and was recently named to Newcity’s Lit 50 list. On the side, she interviews authors for Newcity and The Rumpus, at book stores and literary festivals. When Danzer isn’t working, reading, or writing, she’s regularly at live lit events around town, and occasionally shares a story of her own.
A longtime nonprofit guy, Barry A. Benson started out fundraising for higher education in 2003, following several years in publishing and the visual arts in New Orleans where he had lived most of his early life. While at Columbia College Chicago, Barry was introduced to and joined the board of Story Week Festival of Writers, his first exposure to Chicago’s rich literary community. He has advised other literary nonprofit organizations and has served as Executive Director at Literacy Chicago, 826CHI, The Bryan Museum of Galveston, Texas, and Stories Matter Foundation/StoryStudio Chicago. Since 2013, Barry and his Greater Reach Consulting firm have assisted emerging and transitioning not-for-profit groups across the US, Central America, and Europe, mostly grant writing and facilitating workshops on grants and nonprofit startups. He has received recognition and numerous awards for his work and contributions, and has twice been included in Newcity magazine’s annual Lit 50: Who Really Books in Chicago. When not consulting or enjoying all that Chicago offers, Barry spends time in Michigan working on a fictional biography of Hannah Gruen, the housekeeper from the Nancy Drew mystery series.
Susan Dennison has been a writer since second grade when her story about a turkey was pinned to the bulletin board in the classroom. Since then she has expanded her writing to include articles for consumer and trade publications, newspapers, a two-year stint as a magazine editor for an ice skating magazine, book reviews, and countless newsletters. She recently retired as the communications and development manager for a large suburban public library. Prior to launching her career in communications, she coached figure skating for 15 years.
In 2020, Susan and her daughter, Elizabeth, launched Colophon Design, a creative services company for writers and readers, where they designed bookplates for authors for virtual book signings. She has a bachelor's degree in management from Arizona State University, and has the honor of being the oldest recipient of an MFA in Fiction from Columbia College Chicago in 2018. In addition to the CLHOF board, Susan has served on the boards of the Chicago Writers Conference and Story Studio Chicago. She has presented at Book Expo and conferences for the American Library Association and the Illinois Library Association.
She believes in the teaching of cursive writing and the use of fountain pens, which she gifts to her grandchildren when they enter middle school. In her spare time she makes handbound books, plays the ukulele, figure skates, and rides horses, although not at the same time.
David Stern is the co-founder and publisher of Eckhartz Press, and the author of The Balding Handbook. He previously worked more than twenty years in sales and marketing, and ten years as a principal in a Chicago advertising agency. Stern is also one of the officers of Eckhartz Press’ parent company Just One Bad Century, Inc, and proud to call himself a lifelong (“City Boy”) Chicagoan.
Bayo Ojikutu is a creative writer based in the Chicago metropolitan area. He is the author of the critically-acclaimed novels Free Burning and 47th Street Black. Ojikutu’s work has been recognized by the Washington Prize for Fiction and the Pushcart Prize, among other notaries. His essays and short stories have been anthologized widely. A graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Ojikutu has taught creative writing, literature, film studies, the business of publishing, etc. at DePaul University, the University of Chicago, Roosevelt University (among other institutions). Ojikutu is pleased to join the Board of the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame as of 2019.
Roberta Rubin was an independent bookseller for nearly 40 years, as owner of Chestnut Court Bookshop, later the Book Stall at Chestnut Court in Winnetka, which was named one of the top 10 bookstores in America by USA Today and Publishers Weekly Bookstore of the Year. Roberta started successful book clubs at the store and alternated with Mary Dempsey in doing four-minute book talks on WFMT. She was instrumental in getting New York publishers to bring authors to Chicago and built large audiences in the Standard Club, Union League Club, University Club, and others of the downtown clubs. More recently, she has been a major force in bringing the American Writers Museum to Chicago, served as chair of its board, and was recognized for her efforts and largesse with the Roberta Rubin room at the museum. She has been involved with numerous boards and philanthropic activities.
Professor and Chair Emeritus of Fiction Writing at Columbia College Chicago, Randall Albers was founding Producer of the long-running Story Week Festival of Writers, received the Columbia College Teaching Excellence Award, and, as chair of the Fiction Writing Department, fostered innovative interdisciplinary and community-based arts work in Chicago, and led development of abroad programs in Moscow, Prague, Florence, Bath, and Rome. A Story Workshop® Master Teacher, he has been a visiting professor at England's Bath Spa University, has lectured at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, and has presented at numerous national and international conferences on the teaching of creative writing. His fiction, creative nonfiction, and scholarly work have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Chicago Review, TriQuarterly, Writers Digest, Writing in Education, Brevity, F Magazine, and Briefly Knocked Unconscious by a Low-Flying Duck, among others. With Steve May, he authored the lead article in Creative Writing and Education, edited by Graeme Harper; and two chapters from his novel-in-progress, All the World Before Them, have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
Jarrett Neal's first book, What Color Is Your Hoodie?: Essays on Black Gay Identity, was a finalist for the 2016 Lambda Literary Award. His fiction, essays, and poetry have appeared in The Gay and Lesbian Review, Chelsea Station, The Good Men Project, Cold Drank, and other publications. A graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago's MFA program in Writing, his upcoming works include the short story collection The White Boy Does His Work and I'm Sorry for My Ignorance: A Writing Tutor's Memoir. He lives in Oak Park, IL.
Barbara Egel is a teacher, writer, editor, and communication consultant. She has degrees in literature from the University of Illinois and Northwestern with concentrations in performance studies, poetics, early modern literature, and modernism. She has published a number of children’s books as well as creative work in various journals including Northeast Corridor, Lavender Review, and Katherine Mansfield Studies. Barbara reviews books for Light, an online journal of light verse, and for Booklist, and she teaches at Harold Washington College and Northwestern University. In her previous career as a qualitative consumer research consultant, Barbara specialized in sensitive topics and worked globally for Fortune 100 clients. Her non-profit affiliations include being named to the Newcity Players 50 for her work with High Concept Labs and a long stretch of volunteer work with Inspiration Corporation as a breakfast server and writing tutor.