Rude, Donald Warren

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Donald Warren Rude loved his family and friends, Shakespeare, opera, and anything that bloomed, especially irises, throughout his life until his death March 4, 2023.

His father read Lamb’s Tales of Shakespeare to him when he was 6, and his mother read to him constantly. He bought his first opera recording at age 12, which he paid for by selling flower seeds door to door. He enjoyed opera performances throughout the United States and Europe—New York, Santa Fe, London, and more. At 12, he also planted his first iris rhizome and had about 400 different varieties in his Blacksburg garden. He served a term as president of the Region 4 Iris Society and was a certified judge of irises.

For most of his distinguished career, Don served as a professor of English at Texas Tech University, where he taught Shakespeare and other authors, served as Director of Graduate Studies in English, and directed a number of dissertations. He edited the international journal Conradiana for 12 years. Don joined the faculty at Virginia Tech in 2004. He shared his love for Shakespeare beyond the university classroom through the courses he taught for seniors at the Blacksburg Community Center—a 17-year commitment faithfully upheld through Fall 2022.

Don met his wife of 54 years, Carolyn, when they were graduate students at the University of Illinois. They shared a love of music, travel, teaching, and their children. Their older son, Benjamin, was killed in a skiing accident in 1987. Grief from that loss prompted an outpouring of poetry writing, some published in various journals and in a self-published collection, Legacy. Their precious younger son, Jonathan, is husband to Leah Lambert, and father to Sydney, Avery, and Ryan. Don shared a love of mystery novels with Leah and loved to read to or watch classic movies with the children.

Friends and family described Don as generous in mentoring, kind, and able to uplift the spirits of a room. They remarked on his sense of humor and commitment to social justice. They praised his teaching and scholarship and were awed by his deep knowledge of opera and irises.

Don was born on December 1, 1936, to Robert Maurice Rude and Nellie Jackson Rude in Great Bend, Kansas. He is a graduate of Wichita State University (B.A., M.A.), where he edited both the yearbook and the newspaper, and the University of Illinois (Ph.D.). He is survived by Carolyn; Jonathan and his family; his sister, Roberta, with whom he shared his love of Shakespeare, theatre, and gardening; his sister-in-law Martha Sue Moll and brother-in-law Charles Kettell and their families; and by cousins and their families.

A memorial service and celebration of Don’s life will be held Saturday, April 15 at 11 a.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 1301 Gladewood Dr., Blacksburg.

Don was generous in supporting educational and community groups. Scholarships in his name and in Benjamin’s are endowed at Texas Tech University; funds in his name are also endowed at the Moss Arts Center and at the Community Foundation of the New River Valley. He was also a contributor to the endowment fund of the Lifelong Learning Institute at Virginia Tech. Memorial contributions to any of these funds would be welcome. Or plant a flower, take a walk, listen to some favorite music, or read a book, and reflect on the life of a gentle man who loved beauty.