Commencement Speaker: New Yorker Executive Editor Dorothy Wickenden ’76

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By Alex Kerai ’19

Editor-in-Chief

Hobart and William Smith Colleges announced today that the 2019 Commencement Address will be delivered by Dorothy Wickenden ’76 L.H.D. ’14. Currently the Executive Editor of The New Yorker, Wickenden is an accomplished novelist, journalist, and editor who has an extensive career covering national news and has been noted as one of the most influential women in journalism.

Wickenden has worked at The New Republic as managing editor and executive editor, and at Newsweek as a national affairs editor. In 1995, Wickenden joined The New Yorker as managing editor. She is also the editor of The New Republic Reader: Eighty Years of Opinion and Debate, which “traces the key political and social battles of the century” and includes magazine contributors such as George Orwell, Rebecca West, John Dewey, and Arthur M. Schlesinger. Throughout her career, Wickenden has written for publications such as The New YorkerThe New RepublicThe Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post, and has also published the acclaimed non-fiction biography Nothing Daunted. 

 “During her distinguished career, Dorothy Wickenden has demonstrated a diligence and fearlessness in pursuing important news that reflects the Colleges’ values of intellectual rigor, integrity and citizenship,” says Interim President Patrick A. McGuire L.H.D. ’12. “Under her leadership, The New Yorker has played a critical role in elevating public discourse on vital issues, from national politics and foreign affairs to the #MeToo movement. She is an accomplished journalist, author, and executive whose experience makes her uniquely suited to address the world into which our seniors will graduate.”

Wickenden graduated magna cum laude from William Smith and as a member of Phi Beta Kappa. As a student, she won the Chester J. Hampton Price for Excellence in English and was awarded distinction for her baccalaureate essay. In 2009, she received the Alumnae Achievement Award. In 2014, President Emeritus Mark D. Gearan L.H.D. ’17 awarded Wickenden an honorary Doctor of Letters to note her accomplishments in journalism and her support of the Colleges as a speaker, panelist, and member of the Board of Trustees from 1994-1998.

Wickenden

Wickenden previously gave the 2006 Convocation address at the Colleges, where she also received the Presidential Medal from President Emeritus Gearan. In her speech she discussed her four years at HWS and remarked that “the true freedom provided by a liberal arts education is the freedom to open your mind. That means… taking leaps of faith, being able to see the logic of an argument you profoundly disagree with, assimilating difficult, often unsettling ideas, and learning to think critically and act humanely.”

After graduating with a B.A. in English from William Smith College, Wickenden attended the Radcliffe Publishing Procedures Course before moving to Washington, D.C., where she worked as an editorial assistant for the Shakespeare Quarterly at the Folger Shakespeare Library. She later continued her studies at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. 

In recent years, Wickenden has taught as a faculty member with The Writer’s Institute at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York City, and is a member of the final selection committee for The Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. 

Since 1996, Dorothy Wickenden has worked as the executive editor of The New Yorker. Wickenden has moderated the weekly podcast “The Political Scene” with New Yorker writers and editors since 2012.

This year celebrates the 194th Commencement of Hobart College and the 108th Commencement of William Smith College. The ceremony will be held at 10 a.m. on Sunday, May 19 on the Hobart Quadrangle.

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