By Sophie Foster
On Jan. 6, founder of the Rose O’Neill Literary House and Professor Emeritus Robert “Bob” Day passed away at the age of 80 in his home state of Kansas.
According to an email sent out by Director of the Rose O’Neill Literary House and Associate Professor of English Dr. James Allen Hall and Associate Director of the Rose O’Neill Literary House Professor Roy Kesey, the “very existence of a literary house at Washington College — a place designed to help our students grow as readers and writers, surrounded by the benevolent spirits of writers past — is due to his tireless work, his infectious energy, and his singular imagination.”
Day was a professor and an author who published numerous works during his lifetime, including the novel “Let Us Imagine Lost Love” and the memoir “Chance Encounters of a Literary Kind,” according to an obituary written by James Dissette for The Chestertown Spy.
“It didn’t take long to be caught up in the physics of his momentum and mission to make WC a kind of mothership for writers, to both instruct young writers and to bring published authors to read on campus,” Dissette said.
Dr. Hall echoed this sentiment.
“Any student who comes to the College because of the incredibly vibrant writing community at WC comes here because of the work that Bob Day, in collaboration with others, performed here,” he said. “Any student who takes a print shop workshop class has Bob Day to partially thank, since he and Mike Kaylor dreamed that piece up as well.”
“Bob Day was instrumental in bringing so many writers here, including Toni Morrison and Gwendolyn Brooks,” he said. “He secured the vision of creating a physical space for writers on our campus — still one of the most distinctive aspects of our college.”
The tradition of literary houses at WC was Day’s vision and lasting impact on the College. According to Dr. Hall, Day convinced the College to acquire the 407 Washington Avenue address, then a home, and convert it into a literary house, for the purpose of encouraging student writers to grow in their craft, establish habits as writers, and build community with one another.
Before the iteration of the literary house that WC maintains today, there was the Richmond House and Dorchester House. The dedication of the Rose O’Neill Literary House took place during Day’s time at the College, in October of 1985.
Day spent over two decades at WC, according to Dr. Hall. His death comes as the College approaches the 50th anniversary of the Literary House.
Plans to honor Day as the anniversary approaches are still in development, but according to Dr. Hall, potential considerations are a reading during Alumni Weekend dedicated to Day and a place to share stories, photos, and memories of him on the literary house website.
According to the Jan. 6 email, “over the coming year, in preparation for our celebration of the 50th anniversary of literary houses at Washington College, we will be soliciting remembrances and photographs of Bob Day and the Rose O’Neill Literary House, as well as the Lit House’s previous iterations as Richmond House and Dorchester House.”
Anyone who wishes to share their remembrances for Day, please email email@example.com.
Photo Courtesy of the Rose O’Neill Literary House
Featured Photo Caption: Upon the news of founder of the Rose O’Neill Literary House and Professor Bob Day’s passing on Jan. 6, it was announced that plans to honor Day for the Literary House’s 50th anniversary are currently under consideration.