Academic Ceremonies - Commencement
Honorary Degree Recipient
ERIC S. LIPTON
Doctor of Laws
Eric Lipton, UVM class of 1987, published his first news story in the Vermont Cynic in 1984 and has been in print ever since. The New York Times Washington bureau reporter stepped lively into a profession he calls “a rare privilege” and credits his Cynic experience and training in analytical thinking as a philosophy and history major for that grace. Just five years beyond his UVM commencement, he received the Pulitzer Prize for explanatory journalism. He and co-writers at the Hartford Courant were recognized for their outstanding articles about the flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope.
Lipton continued to amass a diversity of experience as he moved to the Washington Post and then The New York Times, where he first worked on the city’s metro beat. He was on his way to cover the mayoral primary on September 11, 2001, when he saw the burning towers of the World Trade Center twenty blocks away. That day, his local beat turned global, and he and colleagues began the long process of distilling what had happened in the attack and its aftermath. Soon after, he and Times reporter James Glanz, now the Baghdad bureau chief, began writing a book about the WTC. Lipton says Glanz “understood the physics of the structure (he holds a doctorate in physics). I knew the players in city hall.” Their critically praised book, City in the Sky: The Rise and Fall of the World Trade Center, is a story about the towers, not just their terminal event.
Now at the Times’ Washington Bureau, Lipton says the months of immersion in 9-11 and Hurricane Katrina stories remain with him always, but he is especially grateful to have helped avert a possible tragedy. His stories about the poisonous chlorine gas stored close to Capitol Hill, he notes, “resulted in the phasing out of the chemical and its replacement with a much less toxic alternative.”
Despite the travel, the demands, even the dangers of some assignments, Lipton never doubts why he continues to tackle them. “Everyday … I have the rare privilege of pursuing whatever ideas and events intrigue me – a pursuit I can follow just about anywhere these ideas might take me, literally, anywhere in the world and to just about any person in the world.” And after the pursuit and the writing, and with the help of his editor and paper, he says, “I can publish it in a way that often resonates throughout the nation and, at times, the world.”