Michael Dana Gioia (born December 24, 1950) is an American poet and critic who retired early from his career as a corporate executive at General Foods to write full-time. From January 29, 2004 until January 22, 2009, he was chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, the United States government's arts agency, and has worked to revitalize an organization that had suffered bitter controversies about the nature of grants to artists in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Gioia has sought to encourage jazz, which he calls the only uniquely American form of art, to promote reading and performance of William Shakespeare and to increase the number of Americans reading literature. Before taking the NEA post, Gioia was a resident of Santa Rosa, California, and before that, of Hastings-on-Hudson, New York.
Michael Dana Gioia—he does not use his first name and pronounces his surname "JOY-uh" — was born in Hawthorne, California, the son of Michael and Dorothy Gioia. He grew up in Hawthorne, "speaking Italian in a Mexican neighborhood," he said. His father was the son of immigrants from Sicily and his mother was a native Californian of Mexican heritage. He grew up amid a richness of languages: English, Italian, Spanish and the Latin of the Catholic church.
Gioia attended Junípero Serra High School in Gardena, California. He received his B.A. from Stanford University in 1973, an M.A. from Harvard University in 1975, and an M.B.A. from Stanford Business School in 1977. After college, he joined General Foods Corporation and served as vice-president of marketing from 1977 to 1992. He was on the team that invented Jell-O Jigglers.