Alumni in Action

Dorothy Allison


Dorothy Allison
Class of 1971 | Major: Sociology and Anthropology
Where are you now and what are you doing?

I live in Northern California with my partner and sixteen year old son. I write novels, short stories and in alternate years am generally found in residence at some college. To quote my official bio,

"Ms. Allison is the author of the prize-winning novels: Bastard out of Carolina and Cavedweller, as well as the books Two or Three Things I know for Sure, Trash, Skin,and the book of poetry, The Women Who Hate me. A popular teacher and speaker, Ms. Allison was Emory University Center for Humanistic Inquiry's Distinguished Visiting Professor, 2008"

What opportunities have you had because of your Eckerd education and how have they impacted your life?

I don't think many colleges actually emphasize independent thought the way Eckerd did. Now that I travel to so many colleges, I see what that means. Actively engaged, challenging and curious students are a pain in the behind - and absolutely the best one can hope to encounter. I think too many colleges find the challenge too much to manage. Only the best continue that tradition. It is the conviction that a troublesome attitude is a good thing that I took from Eckerd, and tools for how to be troublesome in productive ways.

Describe some of the people who had a profound impact on your Eckerd experience

Most of the names are long gone with years and far too many other names overlaying them, but the impact of the people remains. Dr. DeGroot who modeled what an independent scholar could achieve, and still enjoy his life. The German professor who was patient with my horrific accent and helped me manage a scholarship to go to Freiburg for one semester to get me through my third year of the language and make myself understandable. The statistics professor who actually made math understandable. The incredibly patient people in the chapel who were kind to me when I went to discuss witchcraft and the black mass with them while I was trying to sort out medieval history. The professors who would discuss any subject no matter how obscure and made me feel like an intellectual instead of an argumentative child.

What activities were you involved in while at Eckerd and did they influence what you are involved in now?

It was at Eckerd during my senior year that I went to my first women's liberation movement meeting. I remember being terrified and sure that I would get in trouble for going - mostly because I knew I was a lesbian, and I feared that every woman in that room would guess. I also feared that would mean that I would not get my degree, or that somehow even darker and more dangerous secrets would be revealed: rape, incest and a deeply abiding sense of shame. I barely spoke and left early. It took me another year and a half to go to another such meeting: that one in Tallahassee. Having done it safely at Eckerd, I managed much better and began to dismantle the terror that was almost unspeakable. I am sure that everything I have accomplished - including my own survival - follows from those meetings.

Why did you choose Eckerd? What advice would you give students who are considering Eckerd?

Demand the best. Your education is the single most important thing you can acquire.

Accepted? Congrats!

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