Emory Report
November 1, 2004
Volume 57, Number 10


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November 1, 2004
Celebration honors Long's distinguished career

BY Eric Rangus

With research interests that encompass art, music, dance, literature, African American studies and a whole host of other disciplines, honoring the career of emeritus Professor Richard Long in one evening would be difficult.

His friends tried their best, though.

Long was the featured guest at Emeritus College’s Alumni-Emeriti Teacher Appreciation Celebration, held Wednesday, Oct. 27, in Miller-Ward Alumni House, where 100 of his colleagues, friends and former
students gathered to celebrate Long and his continuing accomplishments.

Walter Reed, director of the Graduate Institute of the Liberal Arts (ILA) and professor of English, recalled the first time he saw Long. Reed asked a colleague who “that elegant man” was. “I’ve spent the last 18 years finding out who Richard Long is,” he said. “And the more I find out, my jaw just drops. It’s just incredible.”

Long, Haygood Professor Emeritus in the ILA, was a faculty member from 1986–2001, an adjunct for 13 years before that and, after his retirement if the many gracious attendees could be believed, he is now a legend.

“When he announced his retirement, there was no discussion in the ILA of replacing him,” said Professor Dana White. “It was impossible.”

“Richard’s store of information about every subject imaginable is literally limitless,” said Emory College Dean and former ILA Director Bobby Paul. “No one that I know of has ever brought up a topic of conversation in his presence about which he was unable to discourse with his vast knowledge and understanding—and with the drollest wit imaginable.”

“The national reputation Emory enjoys as a premier place for the study of African American literature and culture is due to Richard Long,” said ILA Associate Professor Rudolph Byrd.

Not all guests were Emory faculty. In fact, not all guests were even in attendance. Poet Maya Angelou, appearing via video screen, delivered a prerecorded message for “my darling Richard Long” and dedicated a reading of her poem “A Georgia Song” to him.

But perhaps even more dramatic than Angelou’s message was the “Movement Tribute to Richard Long,” by dance faculty Sally Radell, Lori Teague and Amanda Lower. As one of Long’s research specialties is dance, the telling of his story using just a few words and a lot of motion was wholly appropriate and fully mesmerizing.

Near the end of the performance, the three dancers mixed descriptions of Long with related movements. Eccentric, thought-ful, fun, dramatic, generous, the three chanted. Not only did the trio illustrate the measures of the man, but the mood of the entire evening, as well.

“I don’t know what to say after all that,” Long said upon stepping to podium to close the evening. “But since I’m never really speechless ...”

Long updated the crowd on his activities, which validated all the earlier compliments on his wide range of interests. Before the year is up, Long will travel to New York for a museum opening, Thailand to sit on a dissertation review committee and Paris for a meeting on African American studies.