Commencement speaker Louise Erdrich '76 and her daughter Aza Erdrich Dorris '11 at the Dartmouth Pow Wow 2009. Louise Erdrich is an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa; Aza is Modoc and Turtle Mountain Chippewa. (Photo by Joseph Mehling '69)
When author Louise Erdrich '76 matriculated at Dartmouth, President James Wright was a young assistant professor of history. This year, Erdrich returns to deliver the main address at Commencement on June 14-the last of Wright's 11-year tenure as president. Watch an archived video of the event.
Erdrich, a member of Dartmouth's first coeducational class, has won acclaim as a writer in multiple genres-most recently as a finalist for the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for fiction for her novel, The Plague of Doves.
Some reflections from Erdrich:
On the Wrights: "Jim Wright is an erudite man with working class origins-the sort of man who can talk to anyone and project a sense of calm assurance. He has never shied from tackling the tough details of his job. Susan Wright has a powerful and serene presence. They have great gifts. I am so proud to know them.
"Jim gave me my first grown-up job, as a researcher on his Great Plains film project. I came down from Fargo, North Dakota, the summer after I graduated, and Jim picked me up at the Greyhound bus station in Lincoln, Nebraska. I learned a lot about research in that job."
Influential professors: "I was fortunate to have Alan Gaylord and Brenda Silver as English professors in my first year. Alan sat down with me and helped me learn how to write an English paper. Brenda became an advisor and steered me toward Virginia Woolf, which changed my life."
Family ties: "My sisters Heid Erdrich '86 and Angela Erdrich '87, DMS '94, and cousin Dawn Gourneau '86 are alumni; my goddaughter Jennifer Erdrich spent an exchange term at Dartmouth. We were delighted when my daughter Aza joined the Class of 2011."
INTERVIEW By KELLY SEAMAN
Last Updated: 1/14/10