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Washington University Honors Author and Teacher William H. Gass

Photo of William H. Gass seated leaning at a table with his arms crossed in front of him and a copy of his book "The Tunnel."
William H. Gass. Photo by Joe Angeles.

On April 6, 2018, members of the Washington University community came together to celebrate the legacy of William H. Gass, who died on December 6, 2017, at the age of 93.

On April 6, University Libraries held an open house in Gass’s honor in the Department of Special Collections at Olin Library. The event included a viewing of materials from the William H. Gass Papers and the Libraries’ rare book collections, organized by Joel Minor, curator of the Modern Literature Collection. Handwritten and typed manuscripts, drafts, correspondence, photos, and a range of materials from the IWC were on display.

Gass taught at Washington University for 30 years and in 1990 became the co-founder and first director of the university’s International Writers Center (IWC) in Arts & Sciences—now known as the Center for the Humanities. Gass led the IWC for a decade with the assistance of associate director Lorin Cuoco.

Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton standing in a suit and tie at a podium softly gesticulating with his hands during his opening remarks at Gass's memorial service.
Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton delivers opening remarks at the memorial service for William H. Gass. Photo by Jerry Naunheim Jr./WUSTL Photos

The open house was followed by an evening program and reception at Holmes Lounge. A number of speakers paid tribute to Gass, sharing personal anecdotes and impressions of his work.

Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton opened the program by praising Gass’s eloquence and distinguished history as a member of the Washington University community. Fiction writer Joy Williams, a frequent visiting Hurst Professor at Washington University, and Garth Risk Hallberg, Washington University alumnus and the bestselling author of City on Fire, also shared their perspectives on the late author.

Joy Williams standing at a podium in black mourning clothes and wearing dark sunglasses while inside speaking at Gass' memorial service.
Author Joy Williams speaks in Holmes Lounge. Photo by Jerry Naunheim Jr./WUSTL Photos

Additional speakers were Lorin Cuoco, who, as a co-founder of the IWC, worked closely with Gass; novelist and poet Matthias Goeritz, the university’s first William H. Gass Fellow and a part-time teacher of creative writing in the International Writers Track, and photographer Michael Eastman, who partnered with Gass on a number of creative projects. Catherine Gass, the author’s daughter, curated a selection of photos that were shown in Holmes Lounge.