Doctor of Humane Letters
Acclaimed author, editor, essayist, and teacher, we welcome you to Mount St. James and our celebration as the Class of 2013 commences its journey in service of the world.
We are a community of readers and book lovers, and your volumes have a treasured place in our classrooms, syllabi, libraries, and homes. They have sparked conversations and questions, debate and reflection. And we are not alone. Because of your book, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Lia Lee-daughter of Hmong immigrants-has become an essential and unforgettable name for students of medicine, students of writing, and all who seek understanding across cultures. With sensitivity and insight, you chronicle Lia and her family, who considered her epilepsy a spiritual gift, as well as the doctors who were mystified by the Lees' care of their daughter.
Like many who teach your award-winning book, Holy Cross Professor of History Karen Turner treasures your wisdom to help students see with newly opened eyes. Professor Turner praises the "eloquent and sympathetic presentation" of Lia's story-a story that she says fosters greater respect and understanding of human suffering.
You are the daughter of renowned literary, radio, and television personality Clifton Fadiman and World War II correspondent, screenwriter, and author Annalee Whitmore Fadiman. You studied at Harvard, followed your parents in pursuing the life of the mind, and now you serve as Yale University's Francis Writer in Residence.
You have blessed us with other books, including Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader and At Large and At Small: Familiar Essays, which one critic called "as close to a perfect book as you will ever hope to read."
As editor of magazines for the Library of Congress and the Phi Beta Kappa Society, you worked to expand wisdom, promote scholarship, raise expectations, and broaden knowledge. Your great heart, spirit, and talent in working with students has been recognized with Yale's Richard H. Brodhead Prize for Teaching Excellence.
You once wrote, in a beautifully evocative observation that has many parallels to Ignatius Loyola's approach to prayer and reflection: "I have always felt that the action most worth watching is not at the center of things but where the edges meet," reminding us that it is at the "shorelines, weather fronts, and international borders where interesting frictions and incongruities" lie; and that often, "if you stand at the point of tangency, you can see both sides better than if you were in the middle of either one."
That all may know of our regard and esteem for your great literary gifts and for helping us see more clearly the tremendous worth in each human life, even and especially for the lives accompanied by suffering, the College of the Holy Cross confers upon you this day the degree, Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.