Adrian Versteegh

PEN American Center, the U.S. division of the world’s oldest literary and human rights organization, yesterday announced the appointment of Steven L. Isenberg as executive director. Isenberg, a professor, lawyer, and former publisher, will replace Michael Roberts, who stepped down in June after eleven years in the position.

Novelist and critic Kwame Anthony Appiah, president of PEN’s board of trustees, said Isenberg had demonstrated “a love of literature and an unyielding commitment to free expression around the world.” “As a former newsman,” Appiah said in a press release, Isenberg “knows from first-hand experience why freedom of expression matters; and as a member of the board of the Committee to Protect Journalists, Steve understands the critical importance of organizations dedicated to protecting it.”

For the past six years, Isenberg has been a visiting professor of humanities at the University of Texas, Austin. A member of the Council on Foreign Relations, he has held professorial and administrative roles at various universities, and also served as publisher of New York Newsday, the Stamford Advocate, and Greenwich Time. “PEN's history and spirit reflect a strong dedication to the arena of human rights and the celebration of free voices and views,” Isenberg said in a statement. “I am honored to have a part in both sustaining that tradition, and in helping to widen the national and international awareness of PEN and engagement in its exemplary work.”

PEN American Center, a 3,300-member organization of writers, editors, and translators, is the largest and most active of the 144 branches that make up PEN International. Its past presidents include Robert Frost, Norman Mailer, Salman Rushdie, and Susan Sontag.