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ISSUE 118 VOL 16 PUBLISHED 4/15/2005

Writer set to speak

By Lisa Gulya
Variety Editor

Friday, April 15, 2005

Gretchen Morgenson ’76, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, will speak at this year’s commencement ceremony Sunday, May 29 at Manitou Field.

Morgenson,now employed at The New York Times, began humbly enough. While attending St. Olaf, she wrote for the Northfield News. However, upon graduating with degrees in English and history, she knew she lacked the credentials necessary to begin a career at a high-profile newspaper.

Instead of attending graduate school, Morgenson said, "Maybe it’s just better to get my hands dirty."

She moved to New York City and took a job as a secretary for Vogue.

After spending a few years as a stockbroker, Morgenson worked at Money, Worth and Forbes. Beginning in September 1995, Morgenson served as Steve Forbes’ press secretary when Forbes ran for president.

Twenty-two years after graduating, Morgenson had accumulated enough experience to join The Times. And in 2002, she won a Pulitzer Prize for her "trenchant and incisive Wall Street coverage" as a financial writer and columnist.

"Gretchen is a model of what a St. Olaf alumna/alumnus can be," St. Olaf College President Christopher Thomforde said. "She is a woman of faith who is active in her congregation."

Thomforde went on to praise Morgenson's civic engagement and professional accomplishments. "As such, she is a good role model for our graduates," he said.

Morgenson credited her liberal arts education with preparing her "for the kinds of things that journalists do."

She added that students who major in areas such as English, philosophy and history learn how to tell a story well – the key to good journalism.

"In fact," Morgenson said, "I think [a liberal arts degree] is preferable to journalism school."

David Wee, retired professor of English, was Morgenson’s professor for her first year writing class. She fondly recalled the experience in an article she wrote for the winter 2005 issue of St. Olaf Magazine.

Some teachers are life-altering she said. "He taught me how to write."

Upon hearing of Morgenson's selection as commencement speaker, Wee had words of praise for Morgenson as well.

"I’m very proud of Gretchen for her remarkable achievement," Wee said. "She serves as a shining example to all of us at St. Olaf – students, faculty and staff – that with hard work and dedication to her chosen vocation, she has put her talents to work so well that others have singled her out for this great award."

In regards to reuniting with his former advisee, Wee added, "I can hardly wait to see her and to congratulate her in person."

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