Molly Ivins (1944-2007)

by Catherine Pyke '79

The two semesters that Molly Ivins spent at Scripps College in the early 1960s didn’t make it into her official biography. When she died from complications of breast cancer on January 31, the media reported that she received her BA in 1966 from Smith College, her mother’s alma mater, where she had transferred after her first year at Scripps. This was followed by an MA from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, a year spent in Paris at the Institute of Political Science, and an honorary doctorate from Haverford College.

Scripps embraced Molly Ivins, however, as the alumna she legitimately was—a member of the Class of 1966—and kept close ties to her, particularly during the past five years. She spoke on campus twice since 9/11, giving the commencement address in 2003.

Though born in Monterey, California, she was raised in Houston and was a Texas woman to the bone. Fierce and audacious, she spoke from her gut. Her first newspaper job was with the Houston Chronicle, followed by the Minneapolis Tribune and the Texas Observer. She worked as a reporter for The New York Times from 1976 until 1982, when she was dismissed after she wrote about a “community chicken-killing festival” and called it a “gang pluck.” She rebounded and wrote for the Dallas Times Herald until its demise, moving on to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, her home paper until 2001, when she became an independent journalist. Her syndicated column appeared in 400 papers nationwide. She wrote six books, four of which became best sellers.

Despite her short time in Claremont, when she addressed the audience at Commencement, she had a clear message for Scripps women and for graduating seniors everywhere: “I would like to say to the graduates, go forth unafraid.” She had advice from her own life experience to bestow to them. First: “Raise hell—big time. I want ya’ll to get out there and raise hell about damned near everything. There is a world out there that needs fixing. Get out there and get after it!”

Her second piece of advice was: “You must have fun. You must work at having fun. If you don’t have fun while you’re fighting to make a better world, what’s gonna happen is you’re gonna get tired and bitter and cynical and burnt out and just wind up a complete waste to everybody. So just put fun on your list.”

Ivins wasn’t the type of woman who would want us to grieve. More likely, she’d have us remember something similar to her challenge to Scripps graduating seniors. “Hang in there, keep fightin’ for freedom, raise more hell, and don’t forget to laugh.”


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