Aimee Bell '88
The written word captured Aimee Bell, and, as a Jesuit might say, she “was ruined for life.”
Daughter and granddaughter of Holy Cross sons Jim Bell, Class of 1963, and Nicholas J. Healy, Class of 1931, Aimee walked up Linden Lane the same year Rolling Stone began serializing Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities . . . the year Mary Oliver won the Pulitzer for poetry . . . and the year countless commentaries appeared on what Orwell got right -- and got wrong -- about 1984.
With that literary and journalistic backdrop, Aimee dove into the study of literature and built a community of dear, lifelong friends. She says her involvement with Student Programs for Urban Development – SPUD – and Worcester children and families changed her life. Her teachers included Professor Bill Morse, who invited her to invent a seminar, an enterprise that she says “opened up my mind, and taught me to read, write, and think at a higher level.”
After graduation, Aimee moved to New York, received a master’s in English from New York University, and began her stellar career in magazine publishing.
Her first job was at Spy, the breakthrough, irreverent monthly magazine that smartly elbowed American media, entertainment and society. She moved on to become an editor at the New York Observer, and then Vanity Fair. There, she quickly advanced to edit the magazine’s popular “Vanities” section, became senior articles editor, and ultimately deputy editor. In her two decades at Vanity Fair, she has edited special issues covering Hollywood, Africa, world leaders, music, the environment, fashion, and theatre. She edits world-renowned and award-winning writers, specializing in the work of essayists, and including the late Christopher Hitchens (whom she cites as the writer who changed her life), James Wolcott, dance critic Laura Jacobs, humorist Fran Lebowitz, and art and social critic Bob Colacello.
She has convinced Oprah Winfrey, George Clooney, Bill and Melinda Gates, among other luminaries and opinion leaders, to contribute to her magazine’s pages.
Her boss Graydon Carter has said: “Aimee is a serial obsessive, an editor who can learn everything about one subject, produce a special report on it, then ramp up on something completely different for the next month.”
Another longtime colleague says: “Aimee is a guiding light for young people starting out at the magazine. Day in and day out there are always younger staff members sitting at her desk, asking for advice and career guidance. There are very few more distinguished editors in the field and no one I know more admired and revered.”
Vanity Fair reaches 1.1 million subscribers and newsstand buyers each month. During Aimee’s tenure, the magazine has won 14 National Magazine Awards -- many of which are ensconced in her office. And the accolades keep coming: Just last week, Vanity Fair won the prestigious Fashion Media award for September Issue of the Year, a special edition that Aimee oversees.
Meanwhile, Aimee provides professional counsel to Holy Cross through her work with the College’s Alumni Marketing Advisory Group, and will be back on campus at Homecoming to participate in a panel discussion with other alumni about the state of the magazine industry.
For her dedication to editorial excellence and the written word; her extraordinary professional achievement and the keen, discerning eye she keeps on culture, style, and current events; for supporting and shepherding the work of both established and emerging writers, the College of the Holy Cross presents to Aimee Bell the Sanctae Crucis Award.