Journalist, admission apostle discusses career highlights and the advance of the University
At age 17, David Von Drehle was sitting in an appointment at The Denver Post, acquisitive to become an agate agent in the sports department. Forth autograph and alteration tests, he’d completed a array of camp trivia questions altered to contest or journalism.
Von Drehle had been accustomed a account of names and asked to analyze anniversary person. Afterwards finishing, he interviewed with the editor.
“He had alone one catechism for me,” Von Drehle says. “He said, ‘What did you put for Charles Russell?’ I told him that Charles Russell is an American artist, a painter of primarily western cowboy scenes.
“Sitting beyond the allowance was my hero at the time, 11-time Colorado sportswriter of the year Dick Connor. The editor yelled bright beyond the room: ‘Hey Connor, the kid got it right.’ Again he told me to be actuality on Friday at 4 o’clock. Knowing who Charles Russell was started my career.”
Von Drehle’s profession began at The Denver Post from 1978-1983, area he formed while accessory the University of Denver as a Boettcher Scholar (BA ’83). At the aforementioned time, he was editor of the DU Clarion.
Now Von Drehle is abiding to DU as the admission apostle at 9:30 a.m. June 11 at Magness Arena for undergraduate students.
He’s been aback to campus before, speaking at alumni contest and to journalism classes. But one of the highlights of his career was aback he came aback to the University of Denver for TIME magazine.
After admission from DU, he abounding Oxford University as a Marshall Scholar, earning his master’s amount in literature. Aback stateside in 1985, he started with The Miami Herald as the New York correspondent. While there, he won a Livingston Award, acquainted arete in journalism for those adolescent than 35.
In 1991, he abutting The Washington Post, area he would break for 15 years. He bounced from New York agency chief, to politics, again arts, again style. Eventually, he larboard to accompany TIME as an editor at large.
Between 60 awning stories, on aggregate from Glenn Beck to Osama bin Laden, Von Drehle was aback on the DU campus for the 2012 presidential candidates’ agitation amid U.S. Sens. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.
It was their aboriginal agitation and drew 67.2 actor television admirers as the candidates sparred central a arranged Magness Arena. It was the most-watched agitation of the aeon and a far cry from DU’s contour during Von Drehle’s time.
He fatigued that his years at the university were invaluable because of the access he fabricated with acceptance and faculty. It was a abundant education, he says, and a admirable experience.
But DU in the 1980s was on the border of bankruptcy. Enrollment was down, the award was baby and a recession rocked Denver. Then-Chancellor Dan Ritchie put DU on the celebrated aisle it parades today, Von Drehle says.
“So actuality I was basically 30 years later, aback on campus, and there were so abounding new buildings, facilities, and Denver had become the affectionate of abode with the contour and authority that it could allure a presidential debate.
“It had the bandwidth to be able to cull that off and do it absolutely well. Pride was my aboriginal activity and again action to be aback area 30 years beforehand I had dreamed of things like that — accoutrement presidential elections or huge stories, aerial about on planes and filing on deadline. There I was aback home accomplishing it. It absolutely represented, for me, how far the University of Denver had appear back I was there.”
Von Drehle larboard TIME to acknowledgment to The Washington Post, area he’s still a twice-weekly assessment columnist filing from Kansas City. He says his adeptness to consistently reinvent himself, affective amid sections and capacity with ease, dates to his time at DU.
He had “four or bristles altered majors at one point” and classified himself as a generalist added than a specialist. He assuredly acclimatized on English and philosophy, the closing “a training in how to anticipate and how to learn.”
Gathering information, appropriate accuracy from fiction and educating himself bound on alien capacity were at the beginning of his abstract education.
Those abilities were acclimated in profiles of claimed favorites, such as Willie Nelson, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson. He pushed himself in arduous interviews, including a alternation on Ruth Bader Ginsberg aback she was nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1993. He says he developed a abysmal acknowledgment of her beat acknowledged career.
He was additionally one of the alone reporters to ride in Donald Trump’s jet during the 2016 campaign. He says the alternation was strange, as best politicians accept become attentive over the accomplished 40 years. Not Trump.
“He was communicable blaze as a applicant in March of 2016,” Von Drehle says. “He is — as we all apperceive now — absorbed to cable news. As anon as the even took off and they angry the accessory on, he addled on his widescreen TV and, for the blow of the flight, aloof clicked through from account approach to account channel.
“Every distinct base for the absolute flight was talking about him. I acquainted like I was in a James Bond cine or something, with the angry villain who’s activity to abort the apple aerial about in a clandestine jet while everybody is talking about him.”
Between and during stops on his journalistic journey, Von Drehle wrote three books.
His first, “Among the Lowest of the Dead,” spotlighted and analyzed Florida’s afterlife amends system. The Chicago Tribune alleged it “perhaps the finest book anytime accounting about basic punishment,” and it was awarded a Silver Gavel atonement acknowledgment by the American Bar Association in 1996.
In 2012, he wrote “Rise to Greatness: Abraham Lincoln and America’s Best Perilous Year.” In between, he wrote his best acclaimed work, “Triangle: The Blaze That Changed America.”
It was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year in 2003 and won a Christopher Award and the Sidney Hillman Foundation book prize.
The book abstracts the adverse blaze at the Triangle Shirtwaist Branch during the bounce of 1911 in New York City, again advance the changes to the political landscape, assurance standards and evolving activity practices.
“If I had accepted how little advice there was at the time I had started that project, I apparently never would’ve done it,” he says with a laugh. “I proposed that idea, begin a actual agog administrator for it and took some of their money, all afore I accomplished that the actual almanac had been scandalously neglected. It became a circuitous challenge, and I had to do abundant added digging than I expected.
“Fortunately, I had encountered a abundant editor, abecedary and acquaintance forth the way, a announcer called Gene Weingarten. Gene’s the alone announcer to accept won the Pulitzer Award-winning for Affection Autograph twice. So he’s one of our abundant affection writers.
“Gene talks about there actuality a god of journalism. Gene’s not a religious man, but he believes in the god of journalism. The way the god of journalism works is that a anchorman who does one added account or looks in one added abode or knocks on one added aperture afterwards they apperceive they’ve got aggregate they need, that announcer will consistently be adored with article extraordinary.
“I had aloof about accustomed up on award a archetype of the balloon of the branch owners whose branch had bent fire. I took one added flier, fabricated one added buzz alarm and apparent a archetype of that transcript. Even the library that had it didn’t apperceive they had it. But they begin this certificate in their basement area it had been for over 30 years.
“That’s basically a journalistic miracle. Afore that, I wasn’t abiding I’d be able to accomplishment the book successfully. This was the assignment I took from that, though: You will never ability the point area you can stop alive adamantine if you appetite to be good.”
To apprentice added about this year’s Admission ceremonies, please click here.
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