Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author Anthony Doerr Makes a Surprise Visit

On April 5, the internationally acclaimed novelist and short story writer Anthony Doerr delivered an energetic, inspiring Hall to students and faculty—all as a delightful retirement surprise to Headmaster Kerry Brennan. As a young boy, Mr. Doerr was a student and advisee of Mr. Brennan’s at University School in Cleveland, Ohio, where Mr. Brennan was a new teacher in the 1980s.

In Hall, on the Smith Theater stage, Mr. Doerr delivered a resonant message about the possibilities, joys, and potential of being intellectually curious, of being inspired by many different things, of being an intentional generalist. He spoke about the inspirations behind his prize-winning novels All The Light We Cannot See and Cloud Cuckoo Land, as well as his short story “The Deep,” which students had read prior in their English classes. He answered students’ questions about his writing life and process, about curating a generalist mentality, and about the positives and negatives of artificial intelligence and its impact on the arts. Mr. Doerr also spoke about the positive impact Mr. Brennan made, and the good advice he offered, during a memorable moment at University School, when Mr. Brennan assured the young, eager Doerr that having too many good ideas was far better than having no good ideas. After Hall, Mr. Doerr joined senior English classes to continue the conversation.

Anthony Doerr’s bestselling book Cloud Cuckoo Land was a finalist for the National Book Award, and All the Light We Cannot See—winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the Carnegie Medal, the Alex Award, and a #1 New York Times bestseller—was adapted in 2023 into a dramatic miniseries available on Netflix. Mr. Doerr is also the author of the story collections Memory Wall and The Shell Collector, the novel About Grace, and the memoir Four Seasons in Rome. He has won five O. Henry Prizes, the National Magazine Award for fiction, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Rome Prize, among many others.