(Kansas City, Missouri) – The Kansas City Public Library has received potentially one of the largest gifts in its history from Robert Day, the Kansas-born-and-raised author of the best-selling The Last Cattle Drive, and his wife Kathryn.
Day, a Kansas native, is bequeathing what he terms “a substantial part” of his estate – including all royalties and revenues from his literary works after his lifetime – through the Robert and Kathryn Day Endowment for the Literary Arts. The funds will help the Library launch an array of literary initiatives including a lecture series revolving around American fiction, a scholarship program for aspiring fiction writers, and other writers’ programs and publications.
“We want to encourage the literary life in Kansas City in perpetuity,” Day said.
Library Director Crosby Kemper III hailed the gift. “Bob Day is the author of a cult classic and has himself become something of a cult classic,” he said, “and the Kansas City Public Library is proud to be the keeper of his legacy.”
Raised in Merriam, Kansas, and educated at the University of Kansas, Day earned instant notoriety with The Last Cattle Drive, his first novel and now a modern Western classic. Published in 1977 and still in print, it is the story of a contemporary Kansas rancher who rebels against the high price of trucking cattle by driving his herd overland across the state.
Day’s other works include award-winning short stories, memoirs, and a second novel, Let Us Imagine Lost Love, which he discussed at the downtown Central Library in December 2015.
He earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees at KU and a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Arkansas. Day was a longtime teacher, initially at Fort Hays State University and then for 35 years at Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland.
He and Kathryn, an accomplished painter, now live in northwestern Kansas near the unincorporated community of Ludell.
The Robert and Kathryn Day Endowment for the Literary Arts will be curated by the Library’s director of readers’ services, Kaite Stover. Five members of the Kansas City literary community serve on an advisory board: Mary Bunten, former executive director of The Writers Place; Lawrence, Kansas, writer Mary O’Connell; Bob Stewart, the editor of New Letters magazine and its KCUR-FM radio companion New Letters on the Air; novelist and University of Missouri-Kansas City assistant professor Whitney Terrell; and Fred Whitehead, co-editor of Freethought on the American Frontier, a collection of memoirs, essays, political cartoons, songs, and poetry lending insight into the social history of the West, and editor of two volumes of poetry.