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ASU poet Alberto Ríos named UA Alumnus of the Year

October 08, 2010

Alberto Alvaro Ríos, a Regents’ Professor who holds the Katharine C. Turner Chair in English at ASU, is being honored with an Alumnus of the Year Award from the University of Arizona. He will be recognized at a ceremony during UA’s Homecoming 2010 celebration Oct. 22 in Tucson. The UA Alumnus of the Year awards celebrate “the highest achievements and contributions of alumni to their colleges.”

Charles “Chuck” Tatum, a professor of Spanish and Portuguese who was dean of the Humanities College at UA in the 1970s, praised Ríos’ work and character, saying “Alberto ‘Tito’ Ríos is one of the finest poets of his generation. In addition, he is a kind and generous person who gives willingly and often to his profession, to his colleagues and to his community. I am proud to know him.”
“I don’t know how this happened,” Ríos said. “I don’t know what leap of the imagination it would have taken to grasp that all these years later one might – because of having put eye to page and pen to paper in all those courses – one might have done some good. I think it’s safe to say that education works. It is our common miracle.”
Ríos received a bachelor’s degree in literature/writing in 1974, another in psychology in 1975, and a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing in 1979, all from the University of Arizona. During his career he has garnered acclaim as a poet and public speaker. He has published 10 books and chapbooks of poetry, most recently “The Dangerous Shirt” (2009); “The Theater of Night” (2006), winner of the 2007 PEN/Beyond Margins Award; and “The Smallest Muscle in the Human Body” (2002), which was a finalist for the National Book Award.
Of his work, the judges for the National Book Award wrote: “Alberto Ríos is a poet of reverie and magical perception, and of the threshold between this world and the world just beyond.”
Maureen Daly Goggin, chair and professor in the Department of English in ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences said, “Alberto Ríos is a leading poet and international public speaker in American literature whose voice has brought distinction to our corner of the Southwest. He is generous to our community and students.”
Considered an honorary Arizona poet laureate (the state does not have an official one), Ríos has written commissioned poetry for a visit by Mexican President Vicente Fox in 2003, and for Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano’s second-term inauguration in 2007. “Capirotada,” Ríos’ memoir about growing up on the Arizona-Mexico border, was selected as Arizona’s ONEBOOK for 2009.
“Alberto Ríos is one of the leading American poets of our time,” said Gail Browne, executive director of the UA Poetry Center.
“During the 1970s, a student in the creative writing program, he was a frequent user of our poetry library. He continues to participate in important, celebratory moments such as the dedication of the Helen S. Schaefer Building. As part of our 50th Anniversary celebrations in September he captivated us with a reading of his work. He is one of the best readers of his own work I have ever heard. He’s also a warm, gracious and generous human being.”
Ríos’ poems have been often adapted and set to dance and music. A performance Oct. 8 by the ASU Herberger Institute School of Music will feature a cantata by ASU professor James DeMars entitled “Tito’s Say,” with lyrics from Ríos’ poetry. Ríos and DeMars also collaborated on a choral piece for the Arizona Commission on the Arts celebration of Arizona’s statehood centennial in 2012.

More information about arts celebrations of the centennial is online at
Kristen LaRue
Department of English