As writers, we would be remiss if part of our day wasn’t spent appreciating the memorial service held for author and UNC-Chapel Hill English professor Louis Rubin, who passed away from kidney and heart ailments back in November. An acclaimed literary pioneer, Louis worked with great diligence to establish Southern literature as an official area of study. This pursuit was spawned by both his upbringing in Charleston, South Carolina, and an appreciation of writers like William Faulkner and Eudora Wetly, the latter of which he brought to Hollins University – then Hollins College – to be a writer-in-residence.
At the Genome Sciences Center on Sunday, February 9th, 2014, dozens of writers, essayists, critics, professors, and more reminisced about their brusque-voiced and enthusiastic mentor who maintained an intrinsic love for the written word and successfully instilled the same in those he taught.
Noted for his progressive beliefs, Rubin established a co-ed graduate program in creative writing at an all-female college; at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, he lobbied the administration to diversify the faculty across all fields of study.
Manning Rubin spoke about his older brother’s seeming distaste for those who sacrificed the depth and wealth in the written word for wealth in pocket. He pointed to Algonquin Books as evidence of that. Louis established Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill with former student Shannon Ravenel, and their collaborative effort in publishing gave a platform for new Southern fiction writers – and even put forth a few best-selling books. Despite its success, Louis’ regarded only the quality of work as important.
Though we did not have the pleasure of listening to his inspirational lectures or enjoying his indefatigable enthusiasm about writing, our lives have taken us on paths in which we encountered others just like him; others who lit the spark within us. So, we thank you and honor you, Professor Louis Rubin, with this post today.