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UIC News Tips
University of Illinois at Chicago Office of Public Affairs (MC 288)
601 S. Morgan St., Chicago, IL 60607-7113, (312) 996-3456, www.uic.edu/depts/paff

August 21, 2001 Contact: Anne Dybek (312) 996-8279; adybek@uic.edu

Note to Editors: photo available


"Stunned - completely stunned." That was the reaction of University of Illinois at Chicago English and African-American studies professor Sterling Plumpp when he realized he had won $1 million in the Illinois lottery's Vegas Instant Game on Aug. 13.

"Throughout my life, I have always depended on my senses. It was the first time where I completely doubted them," Plumpp said. "The dealer had a two, and I had a six. I won, but I didn't really believe it until I went to the lottery office," he says with a lingering trace of disbelief.

Of his unexpected good fortune, Plumpp, who is known for his eloquence, says that he can't describe the "overwhelming joy" of winning.

"I do know for sure though, that this will qualitatively change my life," he said. "A lump-sum of money does things, not only for you, but for family-present and family-to-come. That's what the implications are."

But Plumpp, who drives a 1978 Cadillac and is clearly not materialistic, says that his sudden wealth will not lead to a new flashy lifestyle. There may be a new car in his future, but it will be something modest. "Outside of transportation, a car has no other value to me," he said.

An avid blues and jazz enthusiast, Plumpp says he will probably buy a home in the South or West Loop so that he can be in walking distance to his favorite music clubs. Next year, he will travel to South Africa and Mississippi to gather research material for current and future writing projects.

Plumpp, who has taught at UIC since 1971 and will retire with emeritus status in December, says that winning the lottery has no impact on his immediate personal plans. He will teach two classes this fall - "Introduction to African-American Studies" and "Techniques of African-American Creative Writing" - as scheduled.

Upon retirement, he will continue to teach part-time, conduct workshops and present his work at poetry readings. He says he is looking forward to having more time to devote to writing, and supporting and nurturing the talents of young African-American writers.

While Plumpp says he is looking forward to the new semester, he allows that he will have to collect himself before he faces his students. "You walk around with a kind of high. Writers usually don't make any money." He jokes, "I'm gonna have to contact NASA just to stop me from levitating."

Plumpp's UIC colleagues are also excited.

"I could not be more delighted," said Dwight McBride, professor and head of the African-American studies department. "Sterling has given so much to UIC, to the department of African-American studies, and to African-American letters. It could not have happened to a more wonderful person at a more appropriate time."

Internationally recognized for his blues- and jazz-based poetry, Plumpp is the author of 14 books including "Black Rituals"(Third World Press, 1987); "Ornate with Smoke" (Third World Press, 1998); "Blues: The Story Always Untold"; and "Blues Narratives" (Tia Chucha Press, 1999). Plumpp won the 1999 Richard Wright Literary Excellence Award for his outstanding contributions to literature and is a recipient of the Carl Sandburg Literary Award for poetry, three Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards and other honors for his work.

Plumpp says that he usually plays the Lotto and the Big Game. However, on the occasion of his big win, Plumpp bought two $10 tickets for the Vegas Instant Game and won $25 from one of the tickets. Feeling as though luck was on his side, he purchased another ticket and won the $1million jackpot.

"You're a fool if you don't win and an economic wizard if you do," said Plumpp "Over all it was a good investment of $20."

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