Joel Conarroe, ‘Hub of the New York Literary Wheel,’ Dies at 89

Joel Conarroe, a celebrated arts administrator and professor who headed the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation for nearly two decades and served as a friend and confidante to a pride of literary lions, including his close friend Philip Roth, died on Sunday. He was 89.

The cause of his death, at a hospital in the Bronx, was respiratory failure related to advanced melanoma, his nephew Ron Conarroe said.

Mr. Conarroe was a central figure in the world of letters for decades, with stints as executive director of the Modern Language Association, the nation’s leading scholarly organization for language and literature, and the president of the P.E.N. American Center, the writers’ organization. He was a tastemaker as the chairman of the National Book Award fiction jury, the Pulitzer Prize fiction jury and other such posts.

He was best known for helming the Guggenheim Foundation from 1985 to 2003, where he was only the third president in the history of the organization.

“He was attuned to changing cultural mores — the twists and turns in dozens of academic and artistic fields — while dealing with the financial challenges and working to raise the amount of fellowships so that people could do their own work,” Edward Hirsch, the current president of the foundation, wrote in an email.

Mr. Conarroe and the biographer Robert Caro at a reception to honor Guggenheim fellows at the Guggenheim Foundation in New York in 2005.Credit…Scott Rudd/Patrick McMullan, via Getty Images
Back to top button