I had a great professor in college named Dr. Ralph Hardee Rives. He taught me modern contemporary drama. It was a great class. We read a lot of Tennessee Williams and some William Inge. But, we also read some pretty obscure stuff as well, such as Hamletmachine and Temptation. I read the latter — written by Vaclav Havel while Czechoslovakia was still under Communist rule — in the late 1980s. Havel, of course, went on to become President of the Czech Republic after the Iron Curtain fell. I’ve always marveled at Dr. Rives’ prophetic reading selection.
Apparently, someone else agrees. An anonymous donor recently gave my alma mater, East Carolina University, $152,000 to endow a Southern Literature chair in Dr. Rives’ honor. He deserves the recognition.
Here’s what the donor said about him:
Dr. Rives introduced me to a world I hardly knew existed. He opened up new vistas for me and, in so doing, changed my life significantly. A remarkably worldly man, he had his students thinking globally long before international studies became current, and he also inspired us to love literature and respect the English language.
But what moved me the most is that he was the quintessential Southern gentleman and an inspired role model — learned, suave, witty, gracious, hospitable and debonair. He stands for all the best in the American South, and hence, our wish to endow the English Department’s Chair of Southern Literature in his name.
Well said, and a fitting tribute.