March 21, 2013

Pulitzer Prize-winning author to speak at Colby College graduation

Gregory White Smith, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Colby alumni, will speak at Colby College's 200th year commencement


WATERVILLE — Pulitzer Prize-winning author Gregory White Smith is scheduled to speak May 26 at Colby College’s bicentennial year commencement, the school announced Thursday.

He and all the other honorary degree recipients at this year’s commencement are college alumni, in honor of the school’s 200th year, according to a news release about the ceremony.

A 1973 Colby graduate, Smith and his partner, Steven Naifeh, have written numerous books, including six New York Times bestsellers, on art and other subjects.

Their biography “Jackson Pollock: An American Saga,” won the Pulitzer Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Award.

The book inspired the film “Pollock,” which won an Academy Award and starred Ed Harris and Marcia Gay Harden.

Smith and Naifeh have appeared on the television programs “60 Minutes,” “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” “Larry King Live,” “Tavis Smiley,” “Charlie Rose” and “Today.” They also were profiled in the The New Yorker, The New York Times, USA Today and People.

Commencement ceremonies will start at 10 a.m. May 26 on the Miller Library lawn, weather permitting.

“As we considered the theme of Colby’s bicentennial — In Their Footsteps — members of the committee felt that giving honorary degrees to alumni would honor both the history of Colby and the impact its graduates continue to make on the world,” said Rebecca Corbett, a 1974 Colby graduate, trustee and senior enterprise editor at The New York Times. “Greg Smith is an alumnus whose accomplishments epitomize the kind of learning that happens in a liberal arts setting like Colby.”

Smith majored in English at Colby and later graduated from Harvard Law School. There he met Naifeh, and together they wrote more than a dozen books, including true-crime bestsellers “The Mormon Murders,” “Final Justice” and “Stranger in the Family.” They also founded Best Lawyers, a legal publishing company that has since expanded into an online resource for lawyers in 65 countries.

When Smith was 35, he was diagnosed with cancer and given six months to live. With Naifeh, he wrote “Making Miracles Happen,” an account of his experience that seeks to empower others battling critical illness.

Other honorary degree recipients are David Bodine, a 1976 graduate and chief researcher at the National Institutes of Health; Eleanor Duckworth, a 1957 graduate, cognitive psychologist and retired professor of education at Harvard; Kenneth Ongalo-Obote, a 1994 graduate and member of Uganda’s parliament; Erik Quist, a 1999 graduate and a wounded Marine Corps captain; Liz Czernicki Quist, a 1998 graduate and veterans’ advocate; Pete Rouse, a 1968 graduate and counselor to President Barack Obama; and Savas Zembillas, a 1979 graduate and spiritual leader of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Pittsburgh.

Colby became the 33rd chartered college in the United States on Feb. 27, 1813, the date it celebrates as its founding.

More information about commencement is available at If it rains, the ceremony may be moved to the Alfond Athletic Center, in which case tickets will be required for admission to the gymnasium. For those unable to attend, a live webcast will be available.

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