Written for The Argo by Emily Hamilton
On Nov. 3rd Stockton University’s Visiting Writers Series presented a tribute to the late Stockton Literature professor and author, Stephen Dunn. Dunn started the Visiting Writers Series at Stockton University 45 years ago, in the early years of Stockton’s growth.
Over the decades this program has brought an abundance of highly decorated authors and writers to present to Stockton students and staff. His love for Stockton and its students pushed Dunn to go above and beyond, especially within the literature department, for students and staff to have all the best opportunities in literature.
Even while fighting the effects of Parkinson’s disease, Dunn never let his illness stop his confidence and competitive nature. Knowing the outcome of this illness, Dunn went forward writing and working with friends, colleagues, and students to work to preserve his legacy.
Even while combating the symptoms of Parkinson’s he continued to write with confidence that shined through the words of his recent publications. Many friends and colleagues close with Dunn exhibited some unread poems written for this unpublished book that further exemplified the work Dunn had presented to the world over decades. In his final weeks of still being able to write, he compiled an emotional array of poems that will be published in the spring of 2022 along with poems he had written over the years.
Each presenter collectively agreed Dunn’s vast array of poems and teaching methods impacted them in personally profound ways that have stuck with them even decades after being in his classroom.
Peter Murphy, founder of Murphy Writing, lead the emotional tributes with a light-hearted quote from Dunn’s neurologist, “If more patients were like you, I’d be out of a job,” that reflected Dunn’s perseverance with Parkinson’s. Murphy, a former student of Dunn, maintained communication even after graduation, and the two grew a bond through poetry. While students, friends, and colleagues went on to remark on their interactions with both his poetry and personal experiences with Dunn. Throughout the tribute, speakers presented Dunn as the highly decorated poet and professor he was, leaving a mark on each individual he crossed paths with leaving something for them to hold onto for a lifetime.