Columbians Ahead of Their Time
 Eudora Welty
Eudora Welty "I want so desperately for people to see something of themselves when they look at me."

Eudora Welty (1909–2001)
Business 1930–31
LHD 1982 (hon.)

During the last decades of the twentieth century, Welty, a native of Jackson, Mississippi, was often called "the greatest living Southern writer." Though her material was indeed regional, her psychologically acute, elegant, witty work speaks to a far broader world. Among Welty's many anthologized short stories are "Death of a Traveling Salesman," "The Petrified Man," and "Why I Live at the P.O.," and she received critical and popular acclaim for novels such as The Robber Bridegroom, Delta Wedding, and The Ponder Heart. Welty also published collections of her essays and stories, and an autobiography, One Writer's Beginnings. In 1998, at the age of 89, she became the first living writer whose works were included in the prestigious Library of America series. Among her many other honors, she received the 1973 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for her novel The Optimist's Daughter. The respect for characters that illuminates her stories and novels also shines through in her acclaimed photographs of Depression-era Mississippians.

After graduating from the University of Wisconsin in 1929, Welty came to Columbia Business School to prepare for a career in advertising. Journeying from her residence at Johnson Hall, she took in Manhattan nightlife—dancing in Harlem, the theater, Greenwich Village cafés. After a year at Columbia, she worked briefly at a Manhattan advertising firm and then returned home to Jackson upon the death of her father. She remembered her time at Columbia as "a most marvelous year."

Read more about Eudora Welty in the Columbia Encyclopedia.

The Columbia University Record's obituary from July 25, 2001

The Business School alumni magazine on Welty's time in Morningside Heights (pages 33 to 37) (PDF).

Mark Van Doren

More on Welty's life, work, and legacy.

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