University of Vermont

Academic Ceremonies - Convocation

Convocation Speaker

2009 Convocation Speaker, Tracy Kidder
Bestselling Author, Journalist, Essayist

Partners in Health

Tracy KidderOver his long career, Kidder’s writing has been prolific and outstanding. The Soul of a New Machine—a book celebrated for its insight into the world of high-tech corporate America—earned him a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award in 1982.

Other bestselling works include House (1985), Among Schoolchildren (1989), Old Friends (1993) and Home Town (1999).

His enormously influential book, Mountains Beyond Mountains, (2003), captures two global health crises, tuberculosis and AIDS, through the eyes of a single-minded physician bent on improving the health of some of the poorest people on the planet.

The story of Dr. Paul Farmer, a major force in revolutionizing international health, is a gripping and inspiring account one man’s efforts to establish clinics and hospitals—his compassion for the poor, his inner circle of true believers and, ultimately, his success in helping stem the tide of new HIV and TB infections in Haiti. Farmer is the founder of Zanmi Lasante (Creole for Partners in Health), a non-governmental organization that is the only health-care provider in the Plateau Central in Haiti.

[Mountains Beyond Mountains] “remind[s] us that we’re implicated in all the problems [Farmer] is working to solve…His complicated humanity only makes him more like the rest of us in our shortcomings—and leaves us asking why we all aren’t a little more like him in our virtues” (Newsweek).

Kidder’s most recent book, My Detachment, is an extraordinary honest account of his experiences as a soldier in Vietnam. Writing for the first time about himself, Kidder presents an unromanticized self-portrait of a young man coming of age in the controversial war that defined a generation.

Born in New York City in 1945, Kidder spent his childhood in Oyster Bay, Long Island, where his father was a lawyer and his mother a teacher. He attended Harvard where he earned a BA in 1967. From June 1968 until June 1969, he served as a lieutenant in Vietnam for which he was awarded a Bronze Star.

Following the war, Kidder obtained his MA from the University of Iowa, where he participated in the Writers’ Workshop, a program known for the literary accomplishments of its faculty and alumni. It was there that Kidder met Atlantic Monthly Contributing Editor Dan Wakefield, who helped him get his first assignment for the magazine as a freelance writer. Kidder’s articles in the The Atlantic have covered a broad array of topics, ranging from railroads, to energy, architecture, the environment among others.

I’m a little suspicious of the great, overarching view. It always leaves something out. What interests me is trying to catch the reflection of the human being on the page. I’m interested in how ordinary people live their lives. —Tracy Kidder

Tracy Kidder’s writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Granta and The New York Times Book Review and The New York Times OpEd page and he has also written several short works of fiction. Kidder lives with his wife in western Massachusetts and in Maine where he is at work on a new book.

For more information about Convocation, please contact Leslie Logan, Chief of Protocol and Administrator of University Events, at 656-4205 or by email to:

Last modified September 02 2009 01:04 PM

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