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Award-Winning Journalist Alex Kotlowitz to Deliver 158th Commencement Address

March 1, 2015

Award-winning journalist and best-selling author, Alex Kotlowitz will be the keynote speaker at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary’s 158th Commencement on May 15, 2015. The Commencement service will begin at 10 a.m. at First United Methodist Church of Evanston.

For over 20 years, Kotlowitz has been exploring issues of race and poverty in America. He is the author of “The Other Side of the River: A Story of Two Towns, a Death and America’s Dilemma” (Anchor Press, 1999) and “Never a City So Real” (Crown, 2004). His book, “There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing Up in the Other America” (Doubleday, 1991) gained national recognition for its compassionate and unflinching portrait of Pharoah and Lafeyette Rivers and their lives growing up in a public housing project in inner city Chicago. It was selected by The New York Public Library as one of the 150 Most Important Books of the 20th Century, and it has received many awards, including the Helen B. Bernstein Award for Excellence in Journalism, the Carl Sandburg Award, and a Christopher Award.

Continuing his inquiry into social issues in America, Kotlowitz’s 2011 documentary “The Interrupters”– a collaboration with Hoop Dreams director/ producer Steve James—examines the stubborn persistence of urban violence. The film debuted to much acclaim at the Sundance Film Festival and appeared as a two-hour special on “Frontline.” It was cited as one of the best films of the year by The New Yorker, The Chicago Tribune, The LA Times, and Entertainment Weekly, and received the Independent Spirit Award for Best Documentary.

“At Garrett-Evangelical, we strive to equip our students to be public theologians,” said Dr. Lallene J. Rector, president of Garrett-Evangelical. “Our graduates are committed to the common good and wellbeing of all persons and creation. Their commitment, paired with a deep understanding of theological perspectives and public values, prepares them to lead change that addresses numerous social justice issues. This is why I am so pleased that Alex Kotlowitz will join us as this year’s commencement speaker. His works, ‘There Are No Children Here’ and the film, ‘The Interrupters,’ explore child welfare, violence, and gender, race, and economic inequality.  His address is certain to have a powerful impact on our graduates as they begin their diverse ministries.”

Kotlowitz, a seasoned journalist was a staff writer at The Wall Street Journal from 1984 to 1993 where he wrote on urban affairs and social policy. He regularly contributes to The New York Times Magazine and NPR’s “This American Life,” and his articles have appeared in The New Yorker, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, Rolling Stone, The Atlantic, and Granta. Kotlowitz’s outstanding work has garnered him numerous awards including a George Foster Peabody Award, the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, the George Polk Award, and a Columbia duPont Award.

Kotlowitz is currently a writer-in-residence at Northwestern University. He has been a visiting professor at the University of Notre Dame, the University of Chicago, and served as a Montgomery Fellow at Dartmouth College. He has also been a Distinguished Visitor at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and is the recipient of eight honorary degrees and the John LaFarge Memorial Award for Interracial Justice given by New York’s Catholic Interracial Council.

A graduate of Wesleyan University, Kotlowitz grew up in New York City and now lives with his family outside Chicago.