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Wednesday June 6, 2001

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Poetry Center receives largest donation in its history

By Carrah Bechtel

Arizona Summer Wildcat

The University of Arizona Poetry Center recently received a donation of $1 million, its largest donation ever.

About $800,000 of the donation was received in cash and will go towards the building fund for the new poetry center facility, which relies solely on donations.

The new center - which will be built on the southwest corner of North Santa Rita Avenue and East Mabel Street - will replace the current center, 1216 N. Cherry Ave.

"When the poetry center was opened in 1960 by Ruth Stephan, the university agreed to provide the staff," said Dennis Evans, associate dean of the College of Humanities. "But the center relies on donations for operation and expansion."

Evans said with this donation, the new building fund is halfway to its goal of $4 million.

"The new center was planned in 1999,"Evans said. "New features include more reading rooms, outdoor spaces and an overall larger layout for large groups, especially school children to tour and use the facility."

The new center will also have multiple guesthouses to allow visiting poets to stay at the center, a tradition the center began when it first opened.

Evans said they wanted to find a way to expand the center while keeping its cozy feel intact.

The center received the gift from the estates of Jeremy Ingalls and Mary Dearing Lewis.

Mary Darling Ingalls, a poet and writer, published 17 books in her lifetime including possibly the last American epic poem, Tahl, which was considered for the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1945.

"Also in the donation is an agreement by the Poetry Center to republish Tahl as a new edition" Evans said. "We are also going to publish her works as a selected poetry collection or as a new and selected collection."

The other $200,000 comes from the estimated value of all of Ingalls' papers, and the book collections of both Ingalls and Dearing Lewis that are also being donated.

"(Ingalls) was very well known in her time and a friend of Steven Vincent Benet, (another poet of the time)" said Marshal Fealk, executor of the estates. "Dearing Lewis was her editor and left her portion of the money in order to preserve and republish Ingalls' works," he said, which can be found at the center.

They were both very well educated and eclectic people, added Fealk. They each spoke six or seven languages and traveled a great deal in Europe and Asia in the 1950's.

Both of them taught literature and had a tremendous love for poetry and writing, Fealk said.