Journalist and Author Anna Quindlen to Speakand Receive Honorary Degree at Commencement

Friday, April 23, 1999 (All day)
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and best-selling author Anna Quindlen will be this year's commencement speaker, and Mount Holyoke will award her an honorary doctor of humane letters at the May 23 ceremonies. Also receiving honorary doctorates at commencement will be Nancy J. Vickers '67, president of Bryn Mawr College; Ghanaian author Ama Ata Aidoo; art collector, patron of the arts, and financier Roy Neuberger; and Frances H. Miller '60, a lawyer active in the health-care field.

Quindlen has enjoyed an equally successful career as a journalist and writer of fiction. When she became a New York Timescolumnist in 1981, Anna Quindlen was one of the youngest journalists and one of the few women to have held that post. Outspoken opinions, the mainstay of her "Public & Private" column in the Times,won her a Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 1992. She is the author of four novels: Sibling; Black and Blue: A Novel; One True Thing;and Object Lessons;and selections of her columns have been published as Thinking Out Loudand Living Out Loud.Quindlen has also written two children's books.

While enjoying these career successes, Quindlen has often put family before career by leaving some of the most coveted jobs in journalism to achieve a balance in her personal and professional life. "If we have gone from a scenario of being told we can only be wives and mothers to one that tells us we can only be really out front, then we haven't gone anywhere at all," she explains.

Quindlen had a meteoric rise in the newspaper business. While a student at Barnard College in the early 1970s, Quindlen worked part time for the New York Post,continuing there as a reporter following her graduation in 1974. Joining the Timesin 1977, Quindlen rose from general assignment reporter to deputy metropolitan editor. She left that position in 1985 to spend more time with her children. The Timesasked Quindlen to do a weekly column, and "Life in the 30s" focused heavily on her family and friends and issues of concern to thirty-somethings and continued for three years, until the birth of her third child.

For Quindlen, who is well known for her liberalism, this social issues-oriented column was a means of effecting change. "Millions of people read you every time you appear; some of them are people who are in a position to change some of the injustices that you're writing about; some of them are people who are in a position to give money to some of the good causes that you write about; and maybe you can affect the national discourse by changing or just moving a little bit along the way we talk about certain key issues," she said.

In 1994, Quindlen quit the op-ed page to write novels full time. She already had two best-sellers to her credit. The first, Object Lessons,is the story of a thirteen-year-old girl of mixed ethnicity growing up in the suburbs of New York.

Her latest novel is the story of a battered wife named Fran who escapes her alcoholic husband and moves with her son to Florida, solidifying her own sense of identity in the process. Quindlen thinks many women can identify with Fran and will find themselves somewhere along the "continuum of marriage," between idealized love and abuse, portrayed in the novel. "Men and women, because of their lack of understanding of one another, so often go after different things," Quindlen says. "Women go after intimacy, and men, autonomy. They are at cross-purposes. This book is just a worst-case scenario."

Anna Quindlen, who works on a laptop in her home in Hoboken, New Jersey, is currently at work on her fifth novel.