Buzz Bissinger ’72 to Visit Campus, Discuss Written Work with Andover Students

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Gerard “Buzz” Bissinger ’72 will visit campus next Friday, April 9 to discuss his personal experiences as a journalist and author. His speech will also focus on recent articles he has written, including his controversial New York Times op-ed article, “Faster, Higher, Stronger, No Longer,” in which he proposed the elimination of the Olympic Games. Jennifer Savino, Assistant Director of Alumni Affairs, said, “Mr. Bissinger has been very gracious about accepting invitations from the school. He is an incredibly talented speaker, and regardless of what he talks about, it will be a very interesting night.” Savino originally contacted Bissinger as part of the Broadening Horizons program, an initiative that brings alumni back to campus to speak to Andover students and help them think beyond their lives at Phillips Academy. Following Bissinger’s acceptance, plans for his visit expanded to include a presentation, a meeting with The Phillipian board and a visit to a philosophy class, “Great Philosophers: The Philosophy of Sports.” The philosophy class, taught by Thomas Hodgson, Chair of the Department of Religion and Philosophy, emphasizes the importance of sports in understanding human behavior. Students in his class have read Bissinger’s bestselling novel, “Friday Night Lights,” which portrays the culture of a southern town built around the success of its high school football team. Hodgson said, “Bissinger has written a number of worth-while articles about problems that are associated with sports, and he has raised important issues. Sports are not just a game.” Bissinger will guest lecture the class on Saturday, April 10 and will speak as part of the Broadening Horizons program the same day. Through Broadening Horizons, PA students meet in small groups with alumni. They will discuss finding and following their passions, how they managed to work public service into their lives and turning points or major obstacles they confronted. The event is open to 70 seniors. 12 alumni will attend, including Lincoln Chafee ’71, independent candidate for Governor of Rhode Island and former U.S. Senator, George Smith ’83, Chicago bureau reporter for ESPN and Peter Smith ’64, former U.S. Congressman for Vermont and former college president. Murphy said, “Senior participants in the past have referred to this event as one of the most meaningful events they participated in while at Andover.” Bissinger will also eat dinner with The Phillipian board members. Bissinger is a former Sports Editor for The Phillipian, where his colleagues referred to him as “Buzzy.” The Office of Alumni Affairs invited all alumni living in Massachusetts to attend Bissinger’s event. A group of alumni who live locally serve as the event committee whose job is to reach out to fellow alumni to attend the event. Bissinger has previously visited campus. He spoke at an All-School Meeting and met with The Phillipian editors in the past. He was also the keynote speaker at the opening of the Athletics Hall of Fame in 2008. Murphy said many alumni express interest in returning to campus to speak or visit a class, but it is difficult to coordinate schedules. Faculty members often request alumni to visit classes that relate to an alumnus’ expertise. Faculty members reach out to the alumni directly or through the Office of Alumni Affairs if interested in bringing an alumni guest speaker to campus. “We don’t exclude the faculty from being involved with alumni visits because there are times where we want the faculty to welcome the person as well. It is a partnership,” Murphy said. Bissinger was awarded the Pulitzer Price in 1987 for investigative journalism as a reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer. He and his two colleagues, Daniel Biddle and Fredric Tulsky, wrote a piece on corruption in the Philadelphia court system, which prompted investigations by both the state and federal governments. He then moved to Odessa, Texas, where he followed the town’s football team, the Permian Panthers, and wrote the novel Friday Night Lights. The book is a New York Times bestseller and was later adapted into a film and a hit TV series. ESPN called Friday Night Lights “the best book on sports over the past quarter-century.” Bissinger recently co-wrote Shooting Stars, the autobiography of Lebron James. He is currently a writer for Vanity Fair.