Billy Collins '63 (U.S. Poet Laureate, 2001-2003) Endows Classics Scholarship at the College of the Holy Cross

Headshot of Billy Collins '63. Photo by Bill Hayes

Gift to support students committed to classical studies

The College of the Holy Cross is pleased to announce the creation of the Billy Collins '63 Scholarship for Studies in Classics, the result of a $250,000 gift in honor of the former United States Poet Laureate and graduate of the Class of 1963. Two scholarships will be awarded annually to current students who have demonstrated a commitment to major in classics and also show financial need.

The Billy Collins '63 Scholarship for Studies in Classics includes the initial gift of $250,000, as well as a match through the College's newly launched Hope + Access Campaign for Financial Aid, bringing the amount to a total of $500,000 to establish the scholarship endowment. Students will be awarded the scholarship beginning with the fall 2021 semester.

"I am pleased to create this endowment at Holy Cross because its classics program is the most spirited and highly regarded of any such program at a liberal arts college in the United States," said Collins. "My years of studying classics there provided me with a solid underpinning to my career as a teacher and as a poet. When I'm composing poems, the classical languages are among the candles that light up my page."

In establishing the endowed scholarship, Collins — who was an English major at the College — is giving back to his alma mater and investing in the kinds of resources that made his Holy Cross experience possible. The endowed scholarship will provide funds in perpetuity, ensuring that future students benefit from valuable scholarship assistance, and are able to pursue their passion for the study of classics regardless of their background and financial means. Specifically, the Collins scholarship presents an opportunity to students who, while attending the College, discover and declare a major in the largest and most active classics undergraduate program in the United States.

"We are deeply thankful to Mr. Collins for this unique contribution which allows our students to pursue their passion for the ancient world, and which further supports our department's ongoing efforts to promote diversity and inclusion in the field of classics," said Neel Smith, professor of classics and chair of the department.

Internationally recognized for his work and dubbed "the most popular poet in America" by The New York Times, Collins has published 13 collections of poetry. His most recent collection is "Whale Day and Other Poems" from Random House. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a New York Public Library "Literary Lion," and a vice president of the Poetry Society of America. For several decades, he taught in the English Department at Lehman College (City University of New York), and he has been a visiting writer at Sarah Lawrence, Columbia, Arizona State, Ohio State and Vanderbilt, among other institutions.

Collins served as U.S. Poet Laureate from 2001 to 2003, and as the New York State Poet Laureate from 2004 to 2006. His other honors and awards include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. His poetry has been translated into over a dozen languages. He has given lectures and readings all over the world, including two at Holy Cross.

In 2002, Collins served as the College's Commencement speaker and was given an honorary degree. He also has a doctorate degree from the University of California, Riverside. He currently lives in Florida with his wife Suzannah.

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