Russell Banks, acclaimed novelist, professor in the humanities and creative writing, and ‘absolutely wonderful’ mentor, dies at 82

Jamie Saxon
Office of Communications, Princeton University

Russell Banks, award-winning novelist and the Howard G.B. Clark ’21 University Professor in the Humanities, Emeritus, and professor of the Humanities Council and creative writing, emeritus, died Jan. 8 from cancer at his home in Saratoga Springs, New York. He was 82. . . . Joyce Carol Oates, the Roger S. Berlind ’52 Professor of the Humanities, . . . said a favorite memory of their years-long friendship took place in March 1989, when they gave a reading together for Princeton students — along with Toni Morrison and several other creative writing faculty members — of Salman Rushdie’s “The Satanic Verses,” who was under death threats at the time, to show their support of free speech. “Russell was a moral compass for many, in the tradition of such writers as Melville, Hawthorne and Conrad, for whom the moral ambiguities of life are of fundamental concern, . . .” said Oates, who has taught at the University for 44 years.