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Coleen Grissom, a Literary Legend at Trinity and in San Antonio
By Russell Guerrero ’83

Coleen Grissom – a Trinity University icon, revered as an English professor and former Vice President of Student Affairs – recently was asked to name her favorite books of all time. Since the list changes from week to week, she answered by emphasizing the importance of reading.

“One should make reading an integral part of one’s life. One should do this in spite of all the joys, challenges, distractions, attractions of television, sporting events, plays, IPods, and computers,” she said. “Reading offers much stimulation on many levels, an important one of which it is a solitary process and can teach you the pleasures of, and rewards of, aloneness.  I recommend occasional solitude for your personal growth and rejuvenation.”

Her life-long love of books can be traced back to the Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, and Sue Barton, Staff Nurse, to the Westerns of Zane Grey.  She has read Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier, as well as just about every novel by Irving Stone. She also has devoured classics from French, Russian, and English writers as well as books showcasing the humor of David Sedaris and Steve Martin. For others, she recommends works by Margaret Atwood, Jeffrey Eugenides, Joyce Carol Oates, and Gabriel García Márquez.

In October, Grissom – as a reader – was in good company with such auspicious writers as Atwood, Annie Proulx, and Tim O’Brien. All have taken part in the Autograph Series of Gemini Ink, a literary society in San Antonio. The series calls guests to read from and talk about literary works. Grissom helped celebrate the 10th anniversary of the signature event.

 “This city and this University are blessed and honored by the gift of Coleen Grissom, one of the finest minds in the country,” said Rosemary Catacalos, Gemini Ink executive director. “She champions the freedom to read and to write. More importantly, she champions the responsibility to read and write, and think, and exchange ideas.  And become better human beings as a result.”

Reading, Grissom said, helps us become what we are capable of being.  “It reminds us we are not to kill mockingbirds, to consider other points of view, and not to be racist, sexist, or homophobic. Reading also reminds of about the basic dignity and goodness of human kind.”

For those who missed Grissom’s presentation, there is still hope. Last summer she organized all of her talks, going back to the 1960s, and has assembled them into “A Novel Approach to Life,” to be published next fall by the Trinity University Press.

Barbara Ras, director of the Press, promises that the forthcoming book will be vintage Grissom. “It’s going to have all of her trademark wit, spunk, and irreverence,” she said.  

© 2007 Trinity University

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