Hollins paid tribute to the late Louis D. Rubin, Jr., founder of the university’s graduate program in creative writing and mentor to some of the nation’s best writers, with a memorial service on January 11.
The special event was held in the Hollins Theatre and featured memories, stories, photos, and even a song or two from friends, family, and former colleagues and students.
Born in Charleston, South Carolina, Rubin came to Hollins in 1957 after earning his M.A. and Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University. “With fewer than a handful of creative writing programs in the country, it was unheard of for a small, liberal arts college, let alone a women’s college, to support a graduate writing seminar,” wrote Daniel Edward Nemes M.F.A. ’11 in the Spring 2010 issue of Hollins magazine. “Rubin, however, believed he could create a program at Hollins that stressed writing as a discipline and profession.
“From its inception, then, the Hollins creative writing program has focused on community and forming strong relationships between and among faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate students, another aspect that distinguished Hollins’ program from those at bigger, research-driven institutions.”
During his ten years at Hollins, Rubin established the creative writing program’s national reputation by bringing some of the twentieth century’s most acclaimed writers to campus, including William Golding, Flannery O’Connor, Eudora Welty, and Robert Penn Warren. He also had a profound impact on many Hollins students who would go on to enjoy distinguished careers as authors and publishers, including Annie Dillard ’67, M.A. ’68, Lee Smith ’67, Shannon Ravenel ’60, and Elizabeth Seydel Morgan ’60. With fellow English and creative writing faculty member John Rees Moore, he co-founded The Hollins Critic, a leading American literary journal. He also hired Professor of English Richard Dillard, which Rubin said “may have been my chief contribution to the success of the Hollins writing program.”
Rubin left Hollins in 1967 for the University of North Carolina, where he was a member of the English department faculty for 22 years. After his retirement in 1989, he devoted himself to Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, which he began six years earlier with Ravenel to promote Southern writers. Through the years, Hollins has paid tribute to his legacy. Since 2000, the university’s writer-in-residence program has been named for him and has welcomed such celebrated authors as U.S. Poet Laureate, Pulitzer Prize winner, and Hollins alumna Natasha Trethewey, and Virginia’s Poet Laureate Kelly Cherry. In 2009, a seminar room in Swannanoa Hall, home of the creative writing program, was designated in his honor.
The News & Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina, which described Rubin as a “monumental voice in Southern literature,” published this tribute to him following his death on November 16.