Columbians Ahead of Their Time

©2002 Karen Cipolla

“If your success is not on your own terms, if it looks good to the world but does not feel good in your heart, it is not success at all.”

Anna Quindlen (1953- )
Journalist and Author
Barnard College 1974
BC Trustee 1989-2000, 2001- (Chair 2003- )

A Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and best-selling author, Anna Quindlen gained renown for commentary that examined feminism, motherhood, and family life in the context of American and world society; her fiction has drawn praise for offering social and political insights against a backdrop of believable characters. She began her career as a reporter at the New York Post before moving to the New York Times, rising through the latter’s ranks to become deputy metropolitan editor but leaving the management track to raise her first child. After writing a popular feature column from home, in 1990 she became the third woman ever to receive a regular slot on the Times’s Op-Ed page. She would win the 1992 Pulitzer for commentary for her work there, and a collection of her columns became a national bestseller. Quindlen wrote her first novel, Object Lessons (1991), while still at the Times, but left journalism temporarily in 1995 to focus on her fiction. In work such as 1998’s Black and Blue, Quindlen demonstrated, in the words of People magazine, “the same winning qualities that inform her journalism: close observation, well-reasoned argument, and appealing economy of language.” The publication of A Short Guide to a Happy Life (2000), an expanded version of a high school commencement address, gave Quindlen the distinction of being the first writer ever to have placed books on the Times’s fiction, nonfiction, and self-help best-seller lists. She has also written two children’s books, and in 1999 began a biweekly column for Newsweek. Her latest collection of columns, Loud and Clear, was published in 2004, and she continues to write fiction as well.

Quindlen was an 18-year-old Barnard undergraduate when she began working part-time as a reporter for the Post. Long an active member of the Barnard-Columbia community, she received Barnard’s Distinguished Alumna Award in 1994 and was elected chair of Barnard’s Board of Trustees in 2003. Quindlen gave Barnard’s commencement address in 1997 and spoke at convocation in August 2004, but also recalled her college experience in a 1999 address at Mount Holyoke College: “While I arrived at college in 1970 with a trunk full of perfect pleated kilts and perfect monogrammed sweaters, by Christmas vacation I had another perfect uniform: overalls, turtlenecks, Doc Martens, and the perfect New York City Barnard College affect—part hyperintellectual, part ennui. This was very hard work indeed.”

Anna Quindlen on writing and feminism.

Quindlen's remarks to graduating seniors.

Columbians Ahead of Their Time

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