Alum William McKenzie shares Pulitzer Prize
His mind was running a mile a minute and his to-do list was a mile long on that manic Monday last spring when William McKenzie (’79) finished lunch and raced back to work. Just in time for his boss to tell him to be downstairs in three minutes. Not all interruptions are created equal, and this one was welcome: McKenzie, a columnist at The Dallas Morning News, had just won a Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. He shares the award with colleagues Tod Robberson and Colleen McCain Nelson.
“I was completely surprised,” McKenzie says. “You’re kind of looking at yourself and thinking, ‘We just won the Pulitzer!’ ”
He did so for a series of editorials spotlighting the differences between affluent north Dallas and impoverished south Dallas. Or as UT Arlington President James D. Spaniolo said when introducing McKenzie as the Maverick Celebration keynote speaker last May: “Bill McKenzie focused our attention on parts of the community that too often are ignored, because it’s easier to ignore an unpleasant reality than to do something about it. We are proud that he has committed his life and career to such important work.”
That commitment was forged by debates and writing projects in political science classes at UT Arlington—Luther Haggard’s class chief among them. Awards weren’t on McKenzie’s mind when he began this project; in fact, he didn’t even know his editors had submitted it for Pulitzer consideration. “It does elevate the project, and that’s a good thing,” he says. “And personally, it does give you a quiet confidence that you’re doing some good work.”
The late Professor Haggard no doubt would have been proud. “On the last day of class, I don’t think either of us would have said that he had changed my life,” McKenzie says. “But I knew that he had.”