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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Author David McCullough selected as 2011 commencement speaker

Pulitzer Prize winning author David McCullough announced as this year's commencement speaker.

Two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning author David McCullough will give the 2011 commencement address, Marquette announced yesterday.

McCullough, renowned as one of the nation’s top storytellers, has garnered accolades including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s top civilian honor. More than 40 universities have bestowed an honorary degree upon McCullough.

Besides writing, McCullough has been an editor, essayist, teacher, lecturer and public television fixture.

Bringing in someone of McCullough’s caliber was important to ensure University President the Rev. Robert A. Wild’s final commencement would end on a high note, said Steve Frieder, assistant to the president and corporate secretary.

Although the decision was ultimately Wild’s, Frieder said he and Wild engaged in conversation about who this year’s commencement speaker would be.

“Last summer, I had a conversation with Fr. Wild, where I said, ‘Next year will be your last (commencement), do you have any suggestions?’” Frieder said. “I had mentioned (Mr. McCullough), and he said, ‘Oh, that’s great.’

“He wrote to Mr. McCullough, and he wrote back within a couple days accepting Marquette’s invitation,” he said. “Fr. Wild and I were both very happy and honored that he would accept the invitation.”

McCullough won his two Pulitzers for biographies of American presidents John Adams and Harry Truman — works which helped “advance the historiographies,” Frieder said.

“Mr. McCullough has a unique gift to make history be compelling and come alive, and I would say while there are many excellent historians, Mr. McCullough has an extremely unique gift as a storyteller,” Frieder said.

Mary Pat Pfeil, senior director of university communication, said students will likely enjoy the speaker.

“I hope our students will be as excited as we are about having (McCullough) as commencement speaker this spring,” Pfeil said.

Initial student reaction included mostly positive response – none more so than from Robbie Shimp, a senior in the College of Communication. Shimp added history as his second major in some part due to McCullough’s book “1776.”

“As a history major who is working with John Quincy Adams for my senior thesis, having the author of  ‘John Adams’ come in is incredibly exciting,” he said.

While McCullough headlines the 2011 commencement, he is not alone in receiving an honorary degree.

Three others were announced in a university press release: Will Allen, co-founder and CEO of the community food growth organization Growing Power; Bill Drayton, founder and CEO of Ashoka: Innovators for the Public, a global association of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs; and Catherine Rick, chief officer in the Office of Nursing Services for the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The ceremony will take place at the Bradley Center, 1001 N. Fourth St., at 9:30 a.m. on May 22.

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