Alumni in Action
Owner, Ann Rittenberg Literary Agency
Class of 1979 | Major: Comparative Literature
Where are you now and what are you doing?
I live in Brooklyn with my husband, Paul, and our three teenage daughters, Polly, Julia, and Gracie. I own my own literary agency with an office in New York City.
If you are employed, what does your job entail and how has your Eckerd experience impacted your career?
I represent writers and sell their work to publishers, and as such I put my literature major to use nearly every day, because my training enables me to sort out the good writing from the thousands of submissions I receive each year. In a broader sense, my Eckerd experience, which fostered independent thinking, has helped me not only in establishing my own business, but in staying true to my beliefs even when others tried to tell me I was wrong.
What opportunities have you had because of your Eckerd education and how have they impacted your life?
Where to begin? First of all, the opportunity to receive so much attention and wisdom from the professors in those small classes was invaluable. I graduated in 1979 yet have so many vivid memories of classroom moments. But possibly the one opportunity Eckerd gave me that had the most direct impact on my life was my junior semester abroad in London. It was my first experience living in one of the world's major cities and I wrote to a friend, "I've fallen in love again -- this time with London!" Not only that, but it was there that I met the man I would marry in 1981. Together we have shared a love of London and English literature, and just this summer, my husband was able to take our daughter to lunch at the pub where we were first introduced.
Describe some of your best memories or favorite traditions from your time at Eckerd
I remember the day I really learned how to write a paper. I was studying "Civilization" with Howard Carter (a course that pre-dated the Humanities course), and was struggling with an assignment. He shouted at me, "Look at that wastebasket! Describe it -- what color is it? How tall is it? What's in it? Tell me everything!" I wrote a paper on a painting by Watteau that he awarded with an A and high praise and remembers to this day. I remember my first days hopping across campus because of the sandspurs, and sitting out late at night in intense conversation with friends when the sprinklers would suddenly spring to life, soaking us and reminding us it was 3 am and we should probably go to bed. I remember the spot on Passe-A-Grille beach that Eckerd students always gravitated toward, and studying for finals at Skyway Jack's (which was on the Skyway then), and going to Shadrack's every Sunday night to play pool, and driving to the Keys for spring break and seeing the sun come up over the Everglades.
What makes Eckerd so special or why does it stand out to you as a great college? What does it mean to you now that you have been away for awhile?
I think the energy on the campus is so positive and the sense of community there is unique. I have thought about why this is and I believe it has not only to do with the spirit of the founders, who wanted to create something new and lively in an educational institution, but also to do with the physical location of Eckerd on the end of that beautiful peninsula. Though St. Pete has grown, and the Eckerd campus has more buildings on it than it once had, you have the sense of being left free to roam in an intellectual Eden that is such a refreshing change from the old image of the ivory tower.
What has changed about Eckerd since you left and what remains the same? Is there a core Eckerd value you see in all graduates?
The campus has changed physically, in many ways for the better, most notably the library. The core value I see in all Eckerd graduates is the desire to question. It makes for lively alumni gatherings! The Eckerd zeitgeist encourages independent thinking, which is a great asset in a rapidly changing world. Eckerd encourages you to think for yourself, to reject a herd mentality, and those qualities help you to adapt to the challenges of life in every way.