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Teacher, poet Slonim dies

Ruth Slonim, unofficial poet laureate of WSU, died Wednesday, Feb. 16, in a Moscow care center. She was 87.

She joined the WSU faculty in 1947. During her 36-year tenure at WSU, she taught modern poetry and English literature. In 1967, she was the first woman faculty member to be invited to deliver the WSU Distinguished Faculty Address. Students honored her with the 1965 Outstanding Faculty Woman award.

For more than two decades she organized weekly public poetry readings for the English department. She was responsible for bringing several major poets, including Gwendolyn Brooks, Richard Hugo, W.H. Auden and Galway Kinnell, to campus. A poetry corner at WSU’s Holland/New Library was named in honor of the emeritus English professor in 1997.

She studied poetry with Czeslaw Milosz and knew great writers of her time, including Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg, Louise Bogan, Langston Hughes, Brooks and Auden.

Her poetry received wide acclaim. Her fourth volume of poetry, “Outer Traces, Inner Places,” was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in poetry.

“Ruth Slonim represented what is the very best in education at WSU,” said George Kennedy, chair of the Department of English. “She was a remarkably versatile and productive scholar, writing widely about English literary studies, but focusing happily on the creative side with a wonderfully prolific canon of marvelous poetry.

“But the very best of Ruth Slonim was her teaching. She coached, encouraged, nurtured and inspired the very best in her students. They are her very best and most lasting legacy.”

Slonim established a scholarship at University of Minnesota, Duluth, in honor of her mother and father. Memorials in her honor may be given to that scholarship fund. A service in Washington will be scheduled at a later date.

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