Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Duke to Host Celebration for Late Author and English Professor Reynolds Price

Duke University will host “A Long and Happy Life: A Celebration for Reynolds Price,” at 2 p.m. May 19 in Duke Chapel. The event honoring the acclaimed author and longtime Duke English professor is open to the public.

A celebrated writer of fiction, poetry, memoirs, essays and plays, Price died Jan. 20 at age 77 after more than 50 years as a member of the Duke faculty.

“For half a century, Duke University was fortunate to have Reynolds Price in our midst to teach, inspire and challenge us,” said Duke President Richard H. Brodhead. “We are honored to celebrate his life, and we invite the community to share in our remembrance of our beloved teacher, colleague and friend.”

The celebration will consist of readings, performances and reminiscences by colleagues, former students and friends of long standing. A reception will follow in von der Heyden Pavilion in Perkins Library.

Also, an exhibit featuring manuscripts, photographs, letters and rare books from the Reynolds Price papers will be on display in the Mary Duke Biddle Rare Book Room in Perkins Library from 1-5 p.m.

“Reynolds combined his love for Duke and its students with a sharply honed sense of the values to which we need to aspire and our sometimes failings in reaching them,” Provost Peter Lange said. “Whether teaching his beloved students or speaking to us as colleagues, he always raised our sights and lifted our spirits with a resonant tone, striking eloquence and great, generous good humor.”

Visitors may park in the Bryan Center parking garage off Science Drive on Duke’s West Campus. In addition, parking will be available in lots along Duke University Road near Chapel Drive. People with accessibility needs may be dropped off at the chapel, but their drivers must park in general parking. Traffic is expected to be heavy because of multiple events on campus that day.

For those unable to attend, Duke will provide a live webcast of the event at
For more information and updates, visit

Durham documentary filmmaker Wil Weldon is a former student of Price's.  He produced a feature film on his former professor and friend called Pass It On.  It is now in festivals.  Price saw the film upon its completion and said that it was "exquisite and makes me proud."

Reynolds Price was a native of Macon, N.C. and graduated summa cum laude from Duke in 1955, where he studied creative writing under influential professor William Blackburn, whose other Duke students included noted authors William Styron '47 and Anne Tyler '61. Tyler was also Price’s student. He was a Rhodes Scholar and studied in Oxford, England. He returned to the United States and, in 1958, took a three-year teaching appointment at Duke that turned into 50 years. At the time of his death, he was the James B. Duke Professor of English. In 1962, his novel “A Long and Happy Life” received the William Faulkner Award for a notable first novel. Price published numerous books after that, including the novel “Kate Vaiden,” “Letter to a Godchild,” and his third volume of memoir, “Ardent Spirits: Leaving Home, Coming Back,” which was published in the spring of 2009. Per his wishes, there was no funeral or memorial service.

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