Kathryn Stripling Byer '66 was renowned for poetry celebrating Appalachian culture, women’s experiences, the beauty of the natural world, and the miraculous embedded in the everyday. Named Poet Laureate of North Carolina in 2005 (the first woman to hold this honor), Byer was a generous teacher and mentor whose six books of poetry and numerous other publications earned awards including the Lamont Prize, the Hanes Poetry Award from the Fellowship of Southern Writers, and the North Carolina Award for Literature.
Since her graduation from Wesleyan, Kay Stripling Byer devoted a lifetime of service to her alma mater and remained an active alumna volunteer until her death. Kay wrote many poems for Wesleyan landmark occasions, including “In the Still Here and Now” for the inauguration of President Ruth Knox ’75, “Corragio,” a poem in honor of the Class of 2006 when she served as commencement speaker, and “Fandango,” written in honor of the 50th reunion of her own class. In 2007 she and her family established the Campbell-Stripling Visiting Writer Series that brings renowned writers to campus annually to interact with students. In 2006 the College recognized her with an honorary doctor of literature degree.
To honor Byer’s life and accomplishments, Wesleyan College’s English Department is hosting a celebration that will include readings and presentations by former Writers-in-Residence, musical performances of Byer’s poetry, and tributes from faculty members and students. The event will be held in Pierce Chapel at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 5, followed by a reception in the Corn Center. All are welcome.
Kay leaves behind her husband James, her daughter Corinna, and the beautiful mountains in Cullowhee, NC, where she made her home.