Lovejoy Award to be presented to Times’ Alissa Rubin

Alissa Rubin, Pulitzer Prize-winning Paris bureau chief for the New York Times, will receive Colby College’s Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award for courageous journalism at 7:30 p.m. Monday, October 24, in Lorimer Chapel.

The award was established in 1952 to honor Colby alumnus Elijah Parish Lovejoy (valedictorian, Class of 1826), America’s first martyr to freedom of the press. Following three incidences of anti-abolitionists destroying his printing press over his editorials criticizing slavery, Lovejoy was shot and killed by a pro-slavery mob in 1837 in his Illinois warehouse where he printed his abolitionist message.

The mission of the award is not only to honor and preserve Lovejoy’s memory and his unwillingness to forsake his editorial principles, but moreover to stimulate and honor the kind of achievement in the field of reporting, editing, and news writing so displayed in Lovejoy’s fearlessness. Lastly, the awark seeks to promote a sense of mutual responsibility and cooperative effort between a news industry devoted to journalistic freedom and a liberal arts college dedicated to academic freedom.
The selection committee chooses its recipient based on integrity, craftsmanship, character, intelligence, and courage. According to a college press release, Rubin was chosen in honor of her “intrepid reporting — often at great personal peril — in hotspots around the globe…work [that] was interrupted briefly in 2014, when [she] was severely injured in a helicopter accident while reporting in Iraq on the takeover of Northern Iraq by the Islamic State.”

Rubin graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Brown University in 1980 with an honors degree in Renaissance Studies and a minor in Classics. She later went on to receive her M.A. in Modern European History from Columbia University in 1986. Publications she has been involved with include The American Lawyer, The Wichita Eagle-Beacon, Congressional Quarterly, The New Republic, The Washington Post, and the L.A. Times, in addition to her current position with the New York Times. She joined the New York Times in 2007 as a correspondent in Baghdad, later becoming the bureau chief there. In 2009, she moved to Afghanistan, where her stint as a correspondent only lasted a couple of months as she became bureau chief shortly after her arrival. Rubin served in that role for nearly four years. In 2013, she took the bureau chief position in Paris, though she would remain involved in projects in Afghanistan.

In August 2014, she was seriously injured when the helicopter she was aboard crashed in Kurdistan. The helicopter was carrying aid from the Kurdistan Regional Government to stranded Yazidi Kurds in the Sinjar Mountains of Northern Iraq. While Rubin suffered a fractured skull and broken bones, and multiple other passengers also suffered injuries, the only fatality of the crash was the pilot, Iraqi Major General Majid Ahmed Saadi. The cause of the crash was never determined, though there was speculation that the pilot accidentally lost control after the helicopter hit a boulder during takeoff. From her hospital bed in Istanbul, Rubin dictated an article recounting the events leading up to the crash in which she remembered Saadi. Despite the strained relations between the Iraqis and Yazidis, the Major General took time from his charge of training the Iraqi Air Force to help bring aid to the stranded Yazidi Kurds, and he ended up paying the ultimate price.

Rubin already has multiple journalism awards to her name. She won the Alicia Patterson Journalism Fellowship in 1992 after writing about how the reality of abortion differed from the politics surrounding the issue in the 1990s. She received the John Chancellor Award from the Columbia Journalism School for her cumulative work over 35 years, which included covering the war in Iraq and reporting from the Balkans, Pakistan and Afghanistan. In 2016, she received the Michael Kelly award, which honors the fearless pursuit and expression of truth. In addition, Rubin is the 2016 Pulitzer Prize Winner in International Reporting for “thoroughly reported and movingly written accounts giving voice to Afghan women who were forced to endure unspeakable cruelties.”

Rubin will deliver the 2016 Lovejoy Convocation address, and she will also receive an honorary doctoral degree from the college. The ceremony is open to the public. Also taking place on October 24th in conjunction with the Lovejoy convocation is “Capturing War: Images of Conflict, Upheaval, and Revolution.” The event is sponsored by Colby’s Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement as well as the Center for the Arts and Humanities and features Andrea Bruce, Nina Berman and Carol Guzy, three award-winning war photographers. “Capturing War” will take place in the Diamond Building Atrium from 4-5:30 PM. The photographers will display and discuss their most compelling work, echoing many of the themes in Rubin’s work as a journalist.

Colby President David A. Greene is an ex-officio member of the selection committee. “Alissa Rubin illuminates the lives of real human beings behind the headlines, from the residents of women’s shelters in Afghanistan, to the workers at an Iraqi morgue. Honoring her work through the Lovejoy Award offers our students and broader community an opportunity to learn through her remarkable experiences,” said Greene in a statement posted on Colby’s website.

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