On April 14th at the OSU CH2M HILL Alumni Center, over 620 people instantly quieted as Dean of the College of Liberal Arts Larry Rodgers took the stage to introduce renowned poet Rita Dove. There was not an empty seat in the house as she accepted the prestigious Stone Award, presented to her by President Ed Ray. Rita spoke on the importance of poetry to the world, read several of her poems from her new collection, and answered questions from the audience on her writing process and her opinions on written versus spoken word.
Grassroots Books and Music, a small bookstore in downtown Corvallis, was also in attendance. The store had contacted the publisher of Rita’s new collection of poems and was able to make the book available to the OSU community nearly a month before it will be released to anyone or anywhere else in the world.
Earlier that day Rita spoke to the graduate students of the School of Writing, Literature, and Film and gave a second reading the following day at the First Congregational United Church of Christ in Portland.
The video below, shown at both the Corvallis and Portland readings, depicts the outreach to bring Rita's poetry to the community in honor of her visit to receive the Stone Award. These events included writing workshops in local schools and public libraries led by OSU School of Writing, Literature, and Film graduate students, a painting and collage class inspired by Rita’s works, and a public lecture on “Reading Rita Dove” by Dean Larry Rodgers.
Rita Dove served as Poet Laureate of the United States from 1993 to 1995 and Poet Laureate of Virginia from 2004 to 2006. She has received numerous accolades, including three lifetime achievement awards, 25 honorary doctorates and the 1987 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. Dove is the only poet to receive both the National Humanities Medal (1996) and the National Medal of the Arts (2011). Dove holds the Commonwealth Professor of English chair at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, where she has been teaching since 1989.
The Stone Award for Lifetime Literary Achievement honors a major American author who has created a body of critically acclaimed literary work and has been—in the tradition of creative writing at OSU—a dedicated mentor to succeeding generations of young writers.
OSU alum Patrick F. Stone ('74) and his wife, Vicki, established the prize to spotlight what they see as one of OSU’s best kept secrets: the MFA Program in Creative Writing, which has a growing reputation for its emphasis on mentoring students, building community and reaching out to underserved populations—including at-risk youth and military veterans. The Stones’ $600,000 commitment has allowed OSU to award prizes in 2012, 2014 and 2016, and will continue to provide award funding through an endowment. The honorarium for the award is $20,000, making the Stone Prize one of the most substantial awards for lifetime literary achievement offered by any university in the country.