Pulitzer Prizewinner James B. Stewart ’73 reflects on his time at DePauw


“Did I ever do a Boulder Run? No, never. It didn’t even come up as an issue.”
James B. Stewart ’73 may not have participated in the infamous sprint to the boulder, but his time at DePauw was far from lacking in memorable experiences.
Stewart is undoubtedly among the elite group of particularly noteworthy alumni whose accomplishments merit the university a special kind of pride. Stewart feels that his experiences at DePauw provided him with invaluable preparations that have played a large role in his success.
After graduating from DePauw, Stewart attended Harvard Law School, and soon after was offered a position at one of the most prestigious law firms in the nation. After realizing that he simply did not love his work enough to continue practicing law, his thoughts drifted back to his time at DePauw.
“The happiest I’d ever been was working as editor of The DePauw,” Stewart said in his commencement speech last year.
In pursuit of his love for writing, he was offered a job at The American Lawyer magazine and since then has become a best-selling author, a columnist for The New York Times and a Pulitzer Prizewinner for Explanatory Journalism.
Despite his remarkable career, Stewart still attributes a fair portion of his success story to his experiences at DePauw.
“When I went from DePauw to Harvard, I never felt intimidated,” Stewart said. “Sometimes, I felt even more prepared than others.”
Not only did Stewart feel that DePauw prepared him academically for the future, but he also feels that he was “well socialized.” Stewart said that as far as certain stereotypes go, he was probably “the intellectual, or even geek, but I was also sociable; it’s not like I didn’t have a good time.”
Similar to most over-committed DePauw students, Stewart was involved in a number of activities, providing him with the opportunity to meet all different types of people.
“I was always busy,” he said.
In addition to being the editor-in-chief of The DePauw, Stewart also played the piano, and participated in intramural swimming and golf. He was the social chairman of his fraternity, Delta Chi, and he studied abroad in Freiburg, Germany the second semester of his junior year.
Once he returned to DePauw after his semester abroad, Stewart became the editor-in-chief of The DePauw for the first semester of his senior year. The following semester, he found that he was a little less busy than he had been in previous semesters and set an interesting goal for himself.
“I made a vow to introduce myself to every person I thought was interesting but had never met,” Stewart said.
As a result, he made a lot of new friends and said that it was probably his best semester at DePauw.
“I gained a lot of confidence through my experiences,” Stewart said.
There was one specific DePauw memory that stood out to him the most. He had a political theory class that he said was always conducted very formally. It was his hardest course, but also his favorite. During senior week, the professor invited the class over to his house for dinner.
“It was the first time a professor treated me as an equal and truly appreciated what I had to say, and not because he had to…I was thrilled,” Stewart said.
Along with that political theory class, American literature and a studio art class were some of his other favorite classes.
“One of my good friends and I were the only non-art majors in there,” Stewart said. “We had a great time staying up all night, just slapping paint around. I never would have taken a class like that if I wasn’t at a place like DePauw, but it was a great experience.”
James B. Stewart, or “Jimmy Ben” – the elementary school nickname that he says unfortunately resurfaced somehow in college – was an active, outgoing, and diligent student during his four years at DePauw. He has achieved an extraordinary amount of success and still emphasizes that many of these accomplishments can be traced back to his experiences as an undergraduate student at DePauw.