MacArthur Geniuses: They Pay Off Student Loans Just Like Us!

hamilton writing

Two days ago, the 2015 MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship recipients were announced. Each Genius receives $125,000 per year for five years ($625,000 total) to spend as they choose.

The next day, fellowship recipient Lin-Manuel Miranda dropped this tweet:

My immediate response was “he used part of his Genius Grant to pay off his wife’s student loans!!!” which was just perfect, especially in context of Ester’s recent look at how MacArthur Geniuses tend to spend their windfalls. (The answer? On other people.)

But when I thought about it for more than two seconds, I realized it had to be something even better. I mean, there’s no way the first $125,000 Genius check would have cleared the bank yet, right? That’s assuming the Geniuses even received their checks on September 28, which they probably didn’t, simply because there is no news footage of MacArthur staff knocking on Genius Fellows’ doors while holding enormous checks. The Geniuses get the news via phone call, and the money must come later.

No, he and his wife must have paid off those student loans without MacArthur’s help. They just happened to make the final payment on the same day the Genius Fellowship recipients were announced.

Also, lest you think writing and performing in the Tony Award-winning In the Heights and writing and performing in the totally-going-to-be-Tony-Award-winning Hamilton means financial security as an artist, Miranda recently told the New York Times that he, like anyone else, takes on other jobs:

“[The MacArthur Fellowship] goes a long way toward giving artists breathing room,” Mr. Miranda said. “While ‘Hamilton’ was being written, I wrote another musical; I was on a TV show that was the lowest-rated TV show in the history of NBC; I spoke at schools; I did some corporate gigs — there’s just jobs you do because you are feeding your family.”

He also explained what he planned to do with his grant money:

Mr. Miranda said he would donate some of the prize money to “organizations that I have fallen in love with,” like Graham Windham, founded in 1806 by Alexander Hamilton’s wife, Elizabeth — which continues to serve needy children and families — and the Mariposa Center, which helps girls in the Dominican Republic.

“This is not all going to go to me,” he said. “This is also going to go to some of the places that have fed my soul.”

Congrats on winning the MacArthur Fellowship, Lin-Manuel Miranda—and on paying off those student loans.


The screenshot is from the Public Theater’s Hamilton montage, which is well worth watching.



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