Pulitzer-winning columnist returns to Puget Sound

If you want tickets you better move fast. Leonard Pitts, Jr., nationally syndicated columnist and winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary, is coming to Schneebeck Concert Hall this Tuesday, Nov. 9 at 7:30 p.m. The celebrated journalist and commentator will be joining us next week for a lecture entitled, “An Evening with Leonard Pitts Jr.”

Writing professionally since 1976, Pitts’ work now appears in newspapers across the country and has millions of devout followers. His new book, “Forward from this moment” (available in the Puget Sound bookstore) is a collection of his work since 1993. The volume contains columns exploring family, race, gender, sexual orientation, religion and any contentious issue you might imagine. (The penultimate column is an earnest letter to Robin Rihanna Fenty – best known by only her middle name, and who just appeared as the musical guest on last week’s episode of Saturday Night Live – imploring her to leave her then-boyfriend Chris Brown after his acts of violence in March 2009. “You deserve…to be with someone you don’t have to fear,” Pitts writes. “I understand if you love him but it’s OK to love yourself some too.”)

“Pitts goes deep, and covers a lot in the limited word count columnists are allowed,” Puget Sound director of Student Programs Serni Solidarios said. “He’s well-grounded in history, has a sense of fairness and decency shared by reasonable people, and his emotional perspectives resonate with a wide audience base, whether they follow history, politics, sports, race relations or pop culture.”

The appearance of such a widely acclaimed writer at Puget Sound is thanks in large part to Solidarios, who had invited Pitts to come to the university long before the fame and Pulitzer nominations.

“I read my first Pitts column while in another city over ten years ago, and was delighted when the Tacoma News Tribune finally started running him,” Solidarios said. “A couple of years passed before the Seattle Times caught on, but in the meantime I suggested to a former ASUPS Lectures Chair, Alex Bernhardt, that Pitts might bring out a good audience if he chose to book the date.  Sure enough, it was the first time that we ever had to seat a chunk of the audience onstage, such was the overflow turnout.

“Yet in my frequent chats with mostly NYC and Boston-based lecture and literary agents, there remained absolutely no name recognition whenever I brought up his name. By the time ASUPS Student Programs brought him back under Lectures chair Justin Platts three years ago, those same agencies were starting to clamor for his time, and colleges were now seeking him as a commencement speaker.  I think – and a lot of agents now concur – that somehow, Pitts flew in under their radar simply because he appeared in many major dailies, but did not catch their eye writing for The New York Times or The Washington Post. Last time he was here, a lot of people could only hear him through the PA piped into the Kilworth basement because upstairs was jammed.”

Tickets for Leonard Pitts, Jr. can be ordered by phone at (253) 879.3419, or picked up from the Information Center in Wheelock Student Center. General admission price is $8 and for Puget Sound campus members the price is $4. For any aspiring writers or English majors, consider your upcoming attendance compulsory — especially if you’re curious how anyone could ever in a million years make a living being a writer.