Steven Pearlstein ’73

DEGREE: B.A. in American studies

JOB TITLE: Robinson Professor of Political and International Affairs at George Mason University; Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The Washington Post

ACTIVITIES WHILE AT TRINITY: Member of St. Anthony Hall, editor of The Trinity Tripod, volunteer with public housing projects in Hartford

What originally drew you to Trinity?
The College was very solicitous of me when I was an applicant, and I liked the feel of the school when I went and visited.

Which professor(s) had the most impact on you and why?
Paul Smith. He was an English professor. He created a model of someone of who was straightforward and not fussily academic, irreverent but very smart and original. When I think of delivering a good lecture today, I think of Paul Smith. Gary Jacobson was a political science professor who has since gone on to be a star at the University of California at San Diego. He was in his first or second year as a young professor. He was much more politically and statistically oriented as opposed to government oriented. I learned a lot from him. I had a lot of good professors. Dean Spencer, George Cooper, George Higgins were also great.

What was your favorite college course and why?
Paul Smith’s course on the American novel. We read everything from Moby Dick to Henderson the Rain King. It was a novel a week.

What did you do after you left Trinity?
Right after graduating I went to work for a small newspaper in New Hampshire, The Foster’s Daily Democrat, in Dover, New Hampshire.

How did you come to the position you hold today?
I was an editor of a business magazine in Boston, and they were looking for a business editor at The Post, so they called me and one thing led to another.

How did Trinity help guide you in your life?
I had no particular interest in journalism until I got to Trinity, and then I started working for The Tripod for a year and I rather loved it. There was an editor of The Tripod named John Osler who was brilliant, and I learned a lot from him; he was very inspirational. That was how I got into journalism. I became the editor in my sophomore year, and I took a more moderate stance on the student protests of closing the school. I made The Tripod less political in that sense. We did more on what was going on at the College.

What has been your involvement in the Jewish community, in the past and currently?
For a long time, I belonged to a temple, and my children were bar mitzvahed. I now go to a nonmembership synagogue here in Washington called the Sixth & I. I am not particularly observant, but I go on holidays. I like going to temple. 

What role do you think Hillel plays on college campuses across the country and at Trinity?
I know people often lose religion when they go off to college and they are no longer under their parents’ wings–that’s why Hillel is important.

Another interesting tidbit:
I really enjoyed my time at Trinity. When doing some graduate work at the Bread Loaf School of English, people were pretty impressed with the level of discourse that I was able to engage in. During my year at Smith, I did not find the classes to be anywhere as good as the ones I took at Trinity. I found it to be as good of an education as one could get.