The Glory and the Grandeur of Columbia University's Pulitzer Prizes

04/21/2015 05:41 pm ET | Updated Jun 21, 2015


Being a writer and journalist myself, I've always wondered about winning the Pulitzer Prize.

It can change your life, I've intuited correctly.

Not anybody can win it. You have to really be on top of your game to win one.

There are writers and journalists who spend their entire lives writing and writing very well, that never even get nominated for a Pulitzer, much less win one.

Sure, somebody might win an Emmy, Tony, Golden Globe, Grammy, even an Oscar ... but these, while worthy and admirable, just don't carry the cerebral gravitas of a Pulitzer or Nobel Prize. These two are the pinnacle.

And so it was yesterday, in the misty Manhattan precipitation that I decided to attend the press conference at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism that announced this year's 2015 Pulitzer Prize winners.

Now any writing success I've had has come on the shoulders of giants. These giants of the written and spoken word were geniuses with a pen, keyboard or just their mouths. Chuck Slay, Bob Davis and John Joss were the brilliant minds and writers who wet-nursed me into some kind of moderately decent scribbler. These are the shoulders I rode upon.

And good though I've sometimes thought I am as a writer, going up to the Columbia School of Journalism yesterday taught me something about myself and about the profession of writing: you can never be good enough. Like many pursuits, golf, baseball, art, music, science, mathematics ... no matter what the discipline, you can never reach the high-water mark--no matter how hard you try or how good you get.

Unless, perhaps, if you're a writer and you win a Pulitzer.

Let me support this with some numbers and facts from yesterday's Pulitzer announcement. Almost 3,000 pieces of work--reporting, journalism, writing of books (history, drama, biography, fiction, non-fiction, poetry), the taking of photographs, cartooning, and music, were nominated for a Pulitzer this year. It was the 99th annual Pulitzer Prizes and there were 21 awarded to a collection of the absolute crème de la crème in their art of using words, pictures and musical notes to tell beautiful, sometimes shocking and always visceral stories from around the world. 21 out of 3,000? I don't like those odds. But they are what make the Pulitzer Prize so compellingly special.

And I had some unfinished business, a major thread hanging with Columbia. My late father, who left us almost 15 years ago, went to Columbia and loved it and his time there. Shortly after returning from the war and at the height of the Manhattan Project there, my father roamed the libraries, classrooms and halls of this real New York landmark.

Yet I had never been there.

So as I strode onto the campus from 116th street and Broadway, these are the sights-for-sore-eyes I saw.




And that was just walking onto the Columbia University campus--I wasn't even inside yet!

My pictorial journey continued to the Pulitzer Hall.





I was literally walking the same halls, stairs and buildings as my father trod 70 years ago. How I wish he had taken me there himself while telling me all about his time studying, learning about the world there.

Once inside ...



I was then directed up some stairs (were these the same kinds of stairs I climbed in high school?) into a nondescript hallway and into the World Room in Pulitzer Hall which houses the announcement.



But this room I referred to as nondescript had a special aura on this day, at this time. Something special was about to happen here. The Pulitzer Prizes were about to be awarded here.


Someday, I hope to win a Pulitzer.

But it's a faraway dream.

These writers are too damn good.

But maybe. Just maybe ...

The 2015 Pulitzer Prize Winners