Elizabeth Nunez received her Ph.D. and MA degrees in English from New York University, and her BA degree in English from Marian College in Wisconsin. She joined the faculty at Medgar Evers College in its second year, in 1972, and helped design, develop and implement many of the college's first major academic programs. Until August 2009, Dr. Nunez was Provost and Senior Vice President of the College. She has held the title of CUNY Distinguished Professor since 1999, the only faculty in the college to achieve this rank and recognition. She is currently CUNY Distinguished Professor at Hunter College.
Considered a master teacher within the City University of New York, Dr. Nunez was profiled by the CUNY campaign study with the Best on TV spots and on posters on New York City buses and subways. Prior to her appointment as Provost and Senior Vice President, Dr. Nunez was Chairperson of the Humanities Division, Chairperson of the Department of Literature, Languages, Communication Skills and Philosophy, Chairperson of the English Department, Chairperson of the college's Core Curriculum Committee, and Director of the college's Honors Program. She was a member of the City University's Task Force on Pluralism and Diversity, the Committee on the Improvement of Teaching and Faculty Development in the University, and the Consultative Committee for University Honorary Degrees.
Dr. Nunez has been an evaluator for national, state and local programs in the United States, including the Division of Public Programs for the National Endowment for the Humanities, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Hurston/Wright Legacy Literary Awards, the United Negro College Fund, the Middle States Accreditation office, the Upward Bound Program and the PSC/CUNY Research Awards. She served on a national committee commissioned by President Clinton to review the goals and activities of the Public Programs Division of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and was a member of the White House Roundtable on Women's Initiatives and Outreach.
In 1986, she co-founded the National Black Writers Conference with the celebrated author John Oliver Killens. After Killens’s death in 1987, she directed the conference for eighteen years. She secured grants for the conference from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Nathan Cummings Foundation and the Reed Foundation and worked in collaboration with a number of cultural institutions/programs, including the Brooklyn Public Library, the Brooklyn Museum of Art, QBR: The Black Book Review, the Joseph Papp Public Theater, PEN American Center, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, Cave Canem, the New Renaissance Guild, the Harlem Writers Guild, and CUNY-TV. The conferences have attracted thousands of attendees and a roster of stellar award-winning scholars and writers, including Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, Derek Walcott, Arnold Rampersad, George Lamming, Gwendolyn Brooks, John Edgar Wideman, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Walter Mosley, Amiri Baraka, and Terry McMillan.
Dr. Nunez is the author of seven critically acclaimed novels. Her most recent novel Borders was published in 2011. Her previous novel Anna In-Between was released in September 2009. The novel received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Library Journal and was given a laudable review in the New York Times (9/6/09) and selected as a New York Times Editors’ Choice. Her other novels include When Rocks Dance, Beyond the Limbo Silence, Bruised Hibiscus, Discretion, Grace and Prospero’s Daughter. Prospero's Daughter was a New York Times Book Review Editor’s Choice, the 2006 Florida Center for the Literary Arts One Book, One Community selection, and the 2006 Novel of the Year for Black Issues Book Review. Discretion was short-listed for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award; Bruised Hibiscus won the 2001 American Book Award and Beyond the Limbo Silence was awarded the 1999 Independent Publishers Book Award in the multi-cultural category.
Dr. Nunez’s novels are the subjects of masters’ theses and doctoral dissertations. They are taught at several universities, including the colleges of the City University of New York, the University of Miami, Tennessee State University, Ryerson University in Toronto, SUNY Binghamton and the University of the West Indies. Scholars have written several literary monographs based on her work which have been published in scholarly journals and in chapters of books on Caribbean literature. In addition to her fiction, Dr. Nunez is co-editor with Jennifer Sparrow of the anthology Stories from Blue Latitudes: Caribbean Women Writers at Home and Abroad, and co-editor with Brenda Greene of the collection of essays, Defining Ourselves: Black Writers in the 90s. She is also the author of several monographs on literary criticism published in major scholarly journals.
Dr. Nunez is a former fellow of the prestigious Yaddo and MacDowell artist colonies and the Paden Institute. She served on the Board of Trustees of the PEN American Center for several years and chaired the PEN Open Book Committee, advocating for writers of color. She is a member of the Board of Trustees of both Marian University in Wisconsin and CUNY TV. She serves on the Advisory Board of PEN American Center. Dr. Nunez is executive producer of the CUNY TV series Black Writers in America, hosted by Ossie Davis, which was nominated for a 2004 New York Emmy Award. She served as a jurist for literary awards, including the Mercantile Sargent Fiction Award, the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award and the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence.
In addition to literary awards, Dr. Nunez is the recipient of awards for her work as an educator and cultural activist, including the Carlos Lezama Archives & Caribbean Cultural Center, the Caribbean American Heritage Award from the Institute of Caribbean Studies for Outstanding Contributions to Literature; Building a Better Future through Education Award from the Office of the Suffolk County Executive; the Trinidad and Tobago Independence (TATIC) Anhauser Bush Award; two US State Department Speaker and Specialist Grants, one for the Eastern Caribbean and the other for Spain; the Educator of the Year Award from the Caribbean Guyana Institute for Democracy; a Trinidad and Tobago Alliance Award for Outstanding Contributions to Literature; the Sojourner Truth Award from the National Association of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs, the Carter G. Woodson Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award, and the YWCA Woman of Distinction Award.
In 1999, Dr. Nunez was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters by her alma mater, Marian College, for her contributions to the arts and education. In 2007, she was inducted into the Hall of Excellence of St. Joseph’s Convent Secondary School in Trinidad. In 2012, she was awarded a NALIS Lifetime Literary Award.
Dr. Nunez is a frequent keynote speaker at national and international literary and academic conferences. She gives several readings of her work each year across the country. Her audiobooks include Discretion (Recorded Books, 2003), Grace and Prospero’s Daughter (BBC/ America, 2003) and Anna In-Between (Audible Books, 2010).