Professor Emerita Ruth Stone

Professor Emerita Ruth Stone

Ruth Stone, 96, who won the National Book Award in poetry at the age of 87, died Nov. 19, at her home in Vermont.

Stone taught for a decade at Binghamton University. She joined the faculty in 1988 as a visiting professor and accepted a full-time position the following year. Stone earned her bachelor’s degree in creative writing from Harvard University, where she began her teaching career. She also taught in many of the nation’s best creative writing programs. An active poet since the early 1950s, she was the author of 13 poetry collections. When she won the National Book Award for In the Next Gallery, she was quoted as saying “I think you gave it to me because I’m old.”

Colleague Liz Rosenberg recalled Stone as a passionate woman and a marvel who was especially passionate about poetry and what it could do.

“‘Poetry saves lives!’ [Stone] used to say, sometimes in the midst of department meetings. She believed that, she had lived it,” Rosenberg said. “She once told her colleague and fellow poet, Milton Kessler, ‘You speak poetry, you ARE poetry’ — and this was true for her as well.

“She wrote as she lived — with a sharp-eyed observation, a pungent sense of humor, and great compassion and love,” Rosenberg added. “She was a wonderful friend, a great mother, a beloved teacher. She was the kind of woman who would wheel her invalid dog around and go out in the middle of a blustery freezing winter’s day to feed the birds.”

Stone also was the recipient of the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1999 for Ordinary Words. She won the Milt Kessler Poetry Book Award in 2009, and What Love Comes To was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize. She was recognized with the Academy of American Poets’ Eric Mathieu King Award, the Writing Award, the Shelley Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America and two Guggenheim Fellowships among others.