Planned Gift Endows Executive Director Position at Kent State’s Wick Poetry Center

$1 million bequest honors the memories of Robert and Walter Wick

The Wick family has a long history of philanthropy at Kent State University that began in 1984 when brothers Bob and Walt Wick first established scholarships to support undergraduate poets at the university. Bob was a sculptor and former art department faculty member at Kent State, and the scholarships were born out of a desire to honor and memorialize Bob’s son Stan (1962-1980) and Walt’s son Tom (1956-1973), both of whom died as teenagers.

This most recent gift of $1 million brings the family’s total lifetime commitment to the university to more than $3.5 million. Chris Wick, the son of Walt, made the pledge acting as a representative for his family. The gift will create an endowed position for the executive director of the Wick Poetry Center to maintain the kind of visionary, innovative leadership that has led to the center’s elevated national profile and highly regarded status. The position will be named the Bob and Walt Wick Executive Director of the Wick Poetry Center, and it will also serve to memorialize their tremendous efforts to bring the power of poetry to the larger community.

“The Wick family has meant so much to this university for many decades,” said Kent State President Todd Diacon. “Their vision and passion for supporting students, the university and local communities in their pursuit of learning, healing and connecting through poetry have elevated Kent State and the Wick Poetry Center into the innovative and renowned place it is today. Our sincere thanks to Chris and the Wick family for their ongoing support and generosity.”

May Prentice House
The May Prentice House serves as the home of Kent State University’s Wick Poetry Center. (Photo credit: Melanie Nesteruk)

“There is poetry all around us, in the names of our children, in our favorite lyrics and in the quiet whisper to a loved one, and when we seek out, write down and speak our own poetry, we can find liberation and secure a connection to ourselves and our audience that can’t be made in any other way,” Chris Wick said.

David Hassler headshot
David Hassler

David Hassler, the current executive director of the Wick Poetry Center, was hired in 2000 by Maggie Anderson, the center’s founding director, as part of the expanded outreach efforts. During the past 23 years, Hassler has helped the program secure a national presence with efforts such as its Poets for Science exhibition at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C., the Global Peace Poem in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Kent State May 4 shootings, the Freedom Story exhibition for the dedication of the Now and Forever Windows at the Washington National Cathedral, and many other initiatives.

“The Wick Poetry Center is deeply rooted in our community and continues to be nourished by the passionate engagement of the Wick family,” said Hassler, who will now carry the title of the Bob and Walt Wick Executive Director of the Wick Poetry Center. “Thanks to the original vision and generosity of Bob and Walt and now of Chris, representing the second generation, our center will continue to grow, transforming the lives of students and community members, locally and nationally, welcoming all into the ever-expanding Wick family of poets.”

What began as a memorial scholarship has expanded over the years as the Wick Poetry Program increased its presence on the Kent Campus and its involvement in the surrounding community. In 2004, the Wick Poetry Program was officially named the Wick Poetry Center, and in 2009, its popular Traveling Stanzas debuted as a collaboration between the center and Kent State visual communication design students.

In 2014, the Wick Poetry Center renovated a residence that once belonged to May H. Prentice, the first female faculty member of Kent State. In this new location, the center also created the Maj Ragain Poetry Park, a peaceful space in the heart of the Lefton Esplanade, featuring the Edwin S. Gould Amphitheatre, “Seated Earth” bronze sculpture by Bob Wick, and the Joan and Ron Burbick Outdoor Gallery.

The Wick Poetry Center has a featured fund during Kent State’s monthlong Giving Tuesday campaign this November in honor of its 40th anniversary year in 2024. Chris Wick has generously pledged an additional $20,000 to match all donor gifts during the campaign.

For more information about the Wick Poetry Center at Kent State, visit

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Top Photo Caption:
Chris Wick (left) and David Hassler (right) stand in front of the Wick Poetry Center’s Poets for Science exhibition at the Association of Writers & Writing Programs’ 2023 Conference and Bookfair. (Photo courtesy of the Wick Poetry Center)

Media Contact:
Leigh Greenfelder,, 330-672-7108

POSTED: Wednesday, November 15, 2023 10:23 AM
Updated: Wednesday, November 15, 2023 11:56 AM
Division of Philanthropy and Alumni Engagement