Citation for Elizabeth Strout ’77
Presented by Trustee David L. Foster ’77
President Hansen, I am honored to present Elizabeth Strout, Class of 1977.
Life as a human being can be so demanding that few of us have the time or energy to figure out what our life means. That’s one reason that novelists such as my classmate and friend Elizabeth Strout are so important. They have the eye and the empathy to capture for us the moments, the fleeting thoughts and actions, that compose the mosaic of a life. And they have the rigor and compassion to give that mosaic a form in which fiction becomes a kind of higher truth.
Ms. Strout told an Atlantic Monthly interviewer that she’s always intrigued by “what’s really going on behind the front door of someone’s house.” So she has taken us behind those doors to meet people and communities — set convincingly here in Maine — that are tied together by relationships that are sometimes lifelines and sometimes snares. The latest of her three bestsellers,Olive Kitteridge, was so persuasive a portrait of its difficult title character that last year it won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
After Bates, Ms. Strout earned a law degree and worked jobs as random as selling mattresses and playing nightclub piano. For a while it seemed that the counsel she was given by her Bates advisor would come true: Once she left this campus, he told her, nobody would care whether or not she wrote another word. But Ms. Strout made us care. It’s my pleasure to present Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Elizabeth Strout for the degree Doctor of Letters.
Elizabeth Strout, your eye for the telling detail, your feel for the undercurrents of human relationships, and your ability to shape words into worlds that live vividly on the page have made you one of the outstanding novelists of our time. Therefore, by the authority vested in me by the Board of Trustees, I hereby confer upon you the degree Doctor of Letters, with all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities which here and everywhere pertain to this degree.