UA Poetry Center Receives Million-Dollar Gift

Julieta Gonzalez
May 30, 2001

Charles M. Tatum, dean of the College of Humanities at the University of Arizona, has announced that the UA Poetry Center will be the recipient of a gift in excess of $1 million from the estates of Mary Dearing Lewis and Jeremy Ingalls, longtime friends of the Center. Tatum made the announcement jointly with Marshal Fealk, Esq., executor of the estates.

The contribution is the largest single gift in the history of the nationally-renowned center for the literary arts founded in 1960 by writer and editor Ruth Stephan.

More than $700,000 of the gift will help support construction of the new $4.3 million privately-funded facility for the Poetry Center. The complete literary papers of Jeremy Ingalls are also being donated. An additional $100,000 is designated to support republication of poems by Ingalls, including her epic poem Tahl published originally in 1945 by Alfred A. Knopf. Finally, the Poetry Center will receive selected books of poetry and literary works from the personal libraries of the donors.

Ingalls was a well-known American poet, scholar, editor and translator. She won the prestigious Yale Series of Younger Poets Prize in 1940 and published seventeen books during an active literary career that spanned five decades. In addition to being a professor of English, she was also a professor of Asian Studies at Rockford College before retiring to Tucson in the early 1960s. Her many honors and awards included the Shelley Memorial Award; a Guggenheim Fellowship; a Ford Foundation Fellowship in Asian Studies; a Fulbright Professor and Rockefeller Foundation Lecturer in American Poetry in Japan, and an Asia Foundation delegate to the Republic of Korea. She died in Tucson in 1999.

Mary Dearing Lewis was born in Virginia and attended Tufts University and Indiana University, where she received her doctorate. She taught English with distinction at a number of colleges and universities in the Midwest, including Rockford College, before coming to Tucson. She was Ingalls' editor and lifelong friend. Lewis passed away in November of 2000.

Tatum said, "This wonderfully generous gift by two great lovers of literature and longtime friends of the Poetry Center brings us to the halfway point in our efforts to raise the funds necessary for the Center's new home. We are also delighted to be the recipient of papers and books that will enrich the Center's holdings significantly. And we are honored to be able to republish and distribute some of Jeremy Ingalls' outstanding literary work as well. Marshall Fealk, the executor of the estates, has been a pleasure to work with in concluding the gift agreement that we signed with President Likins last week."

Fealk commented, "The republication of Tahl and a selection of Jeremy Ingalls' other poems will fulfill a desire of the donors to make Ingalls' work available to later generations."

Alison Deming, director of the Poetry Center, said, "The Poetry Center is honored to accept this gift as a fitting legacy of two lives devoted to the art of poetry, the love of learning and the fostering of literary culture. The vision and generosity of Jeremy Ingalls and Mary Dearing Lewis will nourish students, scholars and community members for many generations. And by bringing us to the halfway point in our fund-raising initiative, this gift inspires great joy among all of those who have been working toward the goal of a new home for the Center."