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The Blue & Gray Press | June 26, 2019

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Former UMW professor and Pulitzer winner Claudia Emerson passes away

Former UMW professor and Pulitzer winner Claudia Emerson passes away


Claudia Emerson, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and former professor at the University of Mary Washington, died today at the age of 57 due to complications related to cancer.

Emerson taught at Virginia Commonwealth University after leaving UMW in 2012. While at UMW, Emerson was a professor of English and received the Arrington Distinguished Chair of Poetry. She was also a contributing editor of Shenandoah, a literary magazine.

Emerson was an accomplished poet and focused in the Southern Narrative tradition. She served as Poet Laureate of Virginia from 2008-2010 and received the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 2006 for her collection of poems entitled “Late Wife.”

“The University of Mary Washington counts Claudia among its most distinguished professors,” wrote UMW President Rick Hurley in a campus-wide email sent out Thursday evening.

“Hundreds of students’ lives were touched by Claudia, who was instrumental in the establishment of the creative writing concentration as an option for our English majors,” Hurley stated.

Emerson attended the University of Virginia and earned a degree in English. She received a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 1991.

She is survived by her husband, musician Kent Ippolito, whom she married in 2000, and her mother, Mollie Emerson.

Hurley noted in the campus-wide email that the university does not yet have any information in regards to plans for a memorial service.


  1. Claudia Emerson is a wonderful poet and she will be missed by many of her former students and colleagues.

  2. Mark Andrews

    I had the pleasure of meeting Claudia at my sister-in-law’s where she read some of her poetry, which was a beautiful experience. She was a brilliant women and the world is a better place thanks to the mark she made on it with her teaching and poetry.