Barbara Ras Retirement Toast at AWP
AWP attendees are invited to a retirement toast for Trinity University Founding Director Barbara Ras. Not open to the public.
Barbara retired from Trinity University Press in January 2017. She joined the press in 2002 after a national search. Her work in publishing spans more than three decades and has earned her a reputation as one of the country’s best editors in the fields of nature and environmental writing.
Ras was previously on the editorial staffs of Wesleyan University Press, University Press of New England, University of California Press, North Point Press, Sierra Club Books, and University of Georgia Press.
“Barbara created Trinity University Press from her fertile imagination, extraordinary energy, and amazing literary and scholarly contacts—and then she hired stellar colleagues,” said environmental historian Char Miller, who served as chair of the search committee and is now on the faculty at Pomona College.
Under Ras’s guidance, Trinity University Press quickly became internationally known for its high-quality, award-winning books. A signature acquisition, Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril, was designated a Top 10 Book on the Environment by the Huffington Post and was supported by major donors, including the Kendeda Fund. One of Ras’s original landmark books, Maps of the Imagination: The Writer as Cartographer, was on the New York Times Magazine’s list of 100 most important nonfiction books of all time, and its follow-up, A Muse and a Maze: Writing as Puzzle, Mystery, and Magic, made the New York Times bestseller list.
At Trinity, Ras published noted literary luminaries like Rebecca Solnit, W. S. Merwin, Gerald Stern, Gary Snyder, and Barry Lopez. Today the press publishes 20 titles a year and boasts more than 200 books in print contributing to our understanding of and debate about the natural and built environment, as well as important memoirs, essay collections, and books about Texas and the Southwest.
“Trinity University Press would not exist without Barbara Ras,” said Michael Fischer, former vice president for faculty and student affairs at Trinity University, who oversaw the relaunch of the press. “When she came to Trinity, it was simply an idea. Now it’s a universally respected institution. The award-winning books Barbara solicited, shaped, and published have enriched the lives of countless readers here in San Antonio and beyond. All of us who have been touched by the press are in her debt.”
Also an internationally acclaimed poet, Ras is the author of three books of poetry, including One Hidden Stuff and The Last Skin, both published by Penguin Books. Her first collection, Bite Every Sorrow, was selected by C. K. Williams for the 1997 Walt Whitman Award and subsequently received the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. Close friend and poet Naomi Shihab Nye calls Ras “a poet who shared her brilliance with so many lucky writers and readers.”
Ras’s poetry has appeared in the New Yorker, Prairie Schooner, the American Scholar, the Massachusetts Review, and other publications. She is also the editor of Costa Rica: A Traveler’s Literary Companion, a collection of Costa Rican short fiction in translation.
Ras has received a Rockefeller grant and fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the Artist Foundation of San Antonio, and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. She has taught at writing conferences across the country and has served on the faculty of the Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers. In conjunction with the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program and the U.S. Department of State, she has traveled as a cultural ambassador, teaching poetry in Nepal, Morocco, Tunisia, Kyrgyzstan, and elsewhere.
In her work as a publisher and poet, Ras has impacted the lives of countless writers and artists and has helped shape our understanding of our connections to each other and the world we inhabit.
“Because of Barbara’s distinct vision, Trinity University Press is one of the more successful—and truly unique—small publishers in the United States,” said Tom Payton, director of Trinity University Press, who has worked with Ras for more than twenty years. “Barbara’s rare combination of sensibility and skills among the many colleagues we know in publishing has afforded Trinity the opportunity to make a substantive contribution to ideas and lifelong learning nationally and internationally. It is a legacy that we will work to sustain and develop further in her honor.”