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Pulitzer Prize-winning author Gregory White Smith ’73

Gregory White Smith, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author whose recent biography, Van Gogh: The Life, was called “magisterial” by the New York Times, will speak at Colby’s 192nd Commencement May 26—the College’s Bicentennial Commencement. To mark the occasion, all honorary degrees this year will be presented to alumni.

The ceremony will begin at 10 a.m. on the lawn of Miller Library, weather permitting. It is open to the public.

Smith, a 1973 graduate, and his life partner, Steven Naifeh, have written many books on art and other subjects, including six New York Times bestsellers. Their biography Jackson Pollock: An American Saga won the Pulitzer Prize and was a finalist for the National Book Award. It also inspired the Academy Award-winning 2000 film Pollock, starring Ed Harris and Marcia Gay Harden, as well as John Updike’s novel Seek My Face. Smith and Naifeh have been profiled in the New Yorker, the New York Times, USA Today, Harvard Magazine, and People, and they have appeared on 60 Minutes, The Oprah Winfrey Show, Larry King Live, Tavis Smiley, Charlie Rose, and Today.

“As we considered the theme of Colby’s bicentennial—In Their Footsteps—members of the committee felt that giving honorary degrees to alumni would honor both the history of Colby and the impact its graduates continue to make on the world,” said Rebecca Corbett ’74, senior enterprise editor at the New York Times and a Colby trustee. “Greg Smith is an alumnus whose accomplishments epitomize the kind of learning that happens in a liberal arts setting like Colby.”

An English major at Colby, Smith went on to graduate from Harvard Law School. There, he met Naifeh, and together they wrote more than a dozen books, including true-crime bestsellers The Mormon Murders, Final Justice, and Stranger in the Family. They also founded Best Lawyers, a legal publishing company that has since expanded into an online resource for lawyers in 65 countries. At age 35 Smith was diagnosed with cancer and given six months to live. With Naifeh he wrote Making Miracles Happen, an account of his experience that seeks to empower others battling critical illness.

Other honorary degree recipients are David Bodine ’76, a chief researcher at the National Institutes of Health; Eleanor Duckworth ’57, a cognitive psychologist and retired professor of education at Harvard; Kenneth Ongalo-Obote ’94, a member of Uganda’s parliament; Erik Quist ’99, a wounded Marine Corps captain and Liz Czernicki Quist ’98, a veterans’ advocate; Pete Rouse ’68, counselor to President Barack Obama; and Savas Zembillas ’79, the spiritual leader of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Pittsburgh.

On Feb. 27, 1813, Colby became the 33rd chartered college in the United States. A yearlong bicentennial celebration has included a kickoff featuring Doris Kearns Goodwin ’64, a distinguished lecture series, and the Bicentennial Address by Colby President William D. Adams. The campus celebration will conclude with the opening ceremony of the Alfond-Lunder Family Pavilion at the Colby College Museum of Art in July.  More information about commencement is available at If it rains the ceremony may be moved to the Alfond Athletic Center, in which case tickets will be required for admission to the gymnasium. For those unable to attend, a live webcast will be available here.