Acclaimed author Ann Patchett is the speaker for Sarah Lawrence College’s 77th Commencement taking place on Westlands lawn on May 19 at 10 a.m. She will address the 296 graduating seniors, 137 graduate students receiving their master’s degrees, and their families.
“It is always a privilege to welcome an eminent, accomplished speaker to Commencement; it is even more of a thrill when that speaker is one of our own alumnae/i. I am proud that Ann Patchett will address our graduating class,” said College President Michele Myers.
Winner of a PEN/Faulkner award and the Orange Prize for Bel Canto, praised for Truth and Beauty—Patchett’s memoir of her friendship with fellow Sarah Lawrence alumna the late Lucy Grealy—she had her first story published in the Paris Review while still a student at the College. Her other books are Taft, The Patron Saints of Liars, and The Magician’s Assistant.
While at Sarah Lawrence, Patchett studied with such notable writing teachers as Grace Paley, Allan Gurganus—still a close friend—and Russell Banks. Her studies, and attendance at readings by these writers and others such as Jane Cooper and Thomas Lux, drew her to the writing life. “I was so impressionable and all of those words and voices shaped me into the person I became,” she says.
Gurganus, also an alumnus of the College, and author of Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All and Plays Well with Others, said of his former student: “Every Sarah Lawrence teacher waits for an Ann Patchett to walk through the door. She was born a writer and, in my stunned presence, made herself an even better one. Her fiction has a fearless sense of design, a feral depth of humanity, a willingness (like life itself) to be tragic and funny at once. I go on learning from her.”