When Tom Zoellner graduated from high school in Arizona in 1988, he knew for certain that he wanted to be a reporter. While Lawrence University has (and had) no communications or journalism major, Zoellner believed highly in the values of the LU education. Instead of choosing a vocational education, he believed in Lawrence’s strong commitment to liberal arts.
Now, he is back in Arizona as a reporter for the Arizona Republic, and in 1997 was honored with an Associated Press award.
Instead of learning how to report, his education enabled him to understand the way people think, the way government works, and the reasons things are the way they are.
“Journalism is such an easy job. Lawrence helped me understand the deeper psychology behind the news,” Zoellner says. He recalls that the late Professor Larry Longley’s courses in particular gave him a greater understanding of the larger world and the way it works.
As a history and English major, he came to prize the kind of intellectual give-and-take that seems to be lacking in many of today’s universities. He cherishes the kind “unfettered exchange of ideas, and the vigorous and lively intellectual interplay” that he experienced in the best of his classes at Lawrence.
Zoellner edited The Lawrentian, and there he gained first-hand experience participating in intellectual exchanges, as well as dealing with resistance from others in the community who disagreed with his views.
“Don’t be afraid to speak the truth. Now’s the time,” he advises college students.
The long hours spent planning the newspaper and studying instilled in him something he thinks Lawrence students should always have: “a knowledge of the value of hard work.”
Zoellner urges graduates to never apologize for Lawrence. “Some people tend to apologize for Lawrence, since it is not as well known. They may feel that they don’t have the pedigree—but they got a better education.”
Zoellner has written for the San Francisco Chronicle, The Salt Lake Tribune, and Men’s Health. He also herded 1,000 sheep to their winter pasture in 1991.