Neil Chethik, executive director of the Carnegie Center for Literacy & Learning since 2011, announced Monday that he will retire at the end of March 2022.
During Chethik’s decade-long tenure, the nonprofit center doubled its service capacity, providing thousands of Fayette County children with one-on-one tutoring, academic camps, and art activities. Through the pandemic, Carnegie maintained its staff while pivoting its tutoring and adult-writing programs online. It also launched the Kentucky Black Writers Collaborative, opening doors for writers historically excluded from publishing.
Chethik said he’s most proud of hiring and retaining Carnegie’s creative, committed staff of 17 employees. “Kids need tutoring. Writers need a community,” he said. “The Carnegie staff has met those needs.”Carnegie Board Chair Lisa Higgins-Hord said, “Neil has created spaces for diverse writers to thrive and has guided dynamic new programs in literacy. His departure comes at the highest point Carnegie has reached yet.”
Chethik, 64, was hired as the third director of the Carnegie Center, a 30-year-old nonprofit located in the Carnegie library building in Gratz Park. A former newspaper reporter and columnist who moved to Kentucky in 1991, he is the author of two books on the psychology of men, FatherLoss (Hyperion 2001) and VoiceMale (Simon & Schuster 2006).
Under Chethik’s leadership, the Carnegie Center has expanded its offerings for Kentucky writers, especially those seeking publication. Those programs include the annual Carnegie Books-in-Progress Conference (started in 2012), the Carnegie Center Author Academy (since 2013); and the Kentucky Black Writers Collaborative (2020).
Another legacy of Chethik’s tenure is the Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame, created within the Carnegie Center in 2013. Since the first induction ceremony, the Hall has welcomed more than 50 Kentucky-connected writers, including bell hooks, Barbara Kingsolver, Wendell Berry, Gayl Jones, William Wells Brown, and Robert Penn Warren.
Chethik said he’ll return to freelancing after he retires from the Carnegie Center. He plans to teach, mentor, and continue serving as editor of the grief website www.OpenToHope.com.
But first, Chethik said, he is mapping out road trips to take with his wife, state Rep. Kelly Flood. Rep. Flood announced this fall that she would not seek re-election in 2022. The couple plan to stay in Lexington and remain active in the community.
Chair Higgins-Hord wished Chethik well. “We know this new path will allow Neil to rediscover family ties, revel in unrestricted moments each day, and immerse him in his writing.” She added, “Enjoy it to the fullest, Neil. It is well-deserved.”