Renowned author Jay McInerney ’76 has been named Commencement speaker for the Class of 2010. McInerney will speak at the College’s 221st Commencement Day on Sunday, June 6. On Class Day, June 5, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley ’75 will present the Baccalaureate address.
McInerney, who rose to prominence after the publication of his 1984 debut novel Bright Lights, Big City, has written seven critically-acclaimed novels, many short stories and myriad essays on wine for House and Garden magazine. Coakley is most recently known for running for the U.S. Senate seat of the late Senator Edward Kennedy.
McInerney, born in 1955 in Hartford, Conn., grew up in several American and European cities because his father worked as an international salesman. McInerney’s family ultimately settled in the Purple Valley for his high school years, during which he attended Taconic Regional High School in Pittsfield, Mass. At the College, McInerney majored in philosophy with a minor in English – experience that manifests itself in the pages of Bright Lights, Big City, which are strewn with philosophical allusions.
After graduating from the College, McInerney worked briefly as a reporter for a local paper in Flemington, N.J., the Hutchinson County Democrat. He traveled to Japan in 1977 on a Princeton-in-Asia fellowship, studied at the Institute for International Studies in Tokyo, taught English at the University of Kyoto and worked as a textbook editor for Time-Life in Osaka. While in Japan, McInerney met his first wife, Linda Rossiter. They divorced shortly thereafter. McInerney returned to the United States in 1979, where he worked as a fact checker at the New Yorker in 1980 and a manuscript reader at Random House from 1980-81. Upon the encouragement of writer Raymond Carver, McInerney quit his publishing job to attend graduate school at Syracuse University, earning a master’s degree in English in 1983. At Syracuse, McInerney married a fellow graduate student, Merry Reymond; the couple divorced in 1987.
In 1984, McInerney published his first novel, Bright Lights, Big City, based on his 1982 short story “It’s Six A.M. Do You Know Where You Are?” Narrated in second-person, Bright Lights revolves around an aspiring, recently divorced, debauched writer who works as a fact-checker for a literary magazine and must come to terms with the emptiness of his hedonistic life. The success of Bright Lights quickly propelled McInerney into fame and inducted him into the “literary brat pack,” a term coined by the media to refer to a new generation of prominent authors. McInerney has written six more novels since Bright Lights, the most recent of which, The Good Life, was published in 2006. Although none have achieved the fame of Bright Lights, all were well-received. In addition to his marriages to Linda Rossiter and Merry Reymond, McInerney has been married to model Marla Hanson, whom he divorced in 1991. He is currently married to publishing heiress Anne Randolph Hearst, granddaughter of William Randolph Hearst.
Born in Pittsfield, Mass., in 1953, Coakley moved to North Adams as an infant, where she remained until the end of her adolescent life. After attending Drury High School in North Adams, Coakley graduated cum laude from the College in 1975 with an A.B. in History of Ideas. Coakley attended Boston University School of Law, graduating with a J.D. in 1979. Coakley’s legal career began soon after she graduated law school. She worked in civil practice from 1979-86, initially with Boston law firms Parker, Coulter, Daley & White and later with Goodwin Procter LLP. In 1986, Coakley began work as an assistant district attorney in the Middlesex district attorney’s office. Coakley briefly joined the Boston Organized Crime Strike Force as a special attorney in 1987, before returning to the Middlesex district attorney’s office in 1989. From 1991 onward, Coakley headed the Child Abuse Prosecution Unit until her resignation in late 1997 to campaign for Middlesex district attorney, to which she was elected in 1998.
During her tenure as district attorney, Coakley prosecuted many high-profile cases, including cases involving sexual abuse by Catholic priests. In 2000, the Women’s Bar Association of Massachusetts awarded Coakley its Leila J. Robinson Award to acknowledge her contributions to the field of law. In 2002, she served as the president of the Massachusetts District Attorneys Association. Coakley resigned in 2005 to run for attorney general, which she won in a landslide in 2006 with 73 percent of the vote. As attorney general, Coakley challenged the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act, making Massachusetts the first state to do so. She also won a settlement of $50 million from Goldman Sachs to relieve Massachusetts’s subprime borrowers, following an investigation by the Attorney General’s Office that concluded Goldman Sachs “unfairly” securitized subprime loans. Last September, Coakley became the first candidate to submit nomination papers to run in the special election for the seat of the late Senator Edward Kennedy. Officially announcing her candidacy a few days later, Coakley won the Democratic primary in December. In January 2010, Coakley lost to her Republican opponent, then State Senator Scott Brown.
Coakley has confirmed that she will seek reelection as attorney general this fall.