Walter Dean Myers, Honorary Degree Recipient

Walter Dean Myers (right) is presented with an honorary degree by President Anthony W. Marx.

Doctor of Letters

Walter Dean Myers is a celebrated and influential author of literature for children and young adults, having published more than 30 books over 40 years. He has written accounts of African-American history and heroes and, as a former Army soldier, he also writes about war: 1988’s Fallen Angels is one of the American Library Association’s most frequently challenged books, for its depiction of the conflict in Vietnam; the book’s sequel, Sunrise Over Fallujah, was released in 2008 and takes place in Iraq. But Myers, who grew up in Harlem and dropped out of high school at age 17, most often takes as his subjects the difficult aspects of urban adolescent life: gang violence, drug abuse and peer pressure. His 2009 novel Dope Sick is the centerpiece of the Second Chance Initiative, a collaboration between Myers, and the National Education Association “to motivate teens to overcome life’s challenge, move beyond mistakes of the past, take advantage of the second chances they are given and make better choices in the future.” Myers credits a particular high school teacher with giving him this kind of encouragement, in regard to his own writing, at a time when he was struggling.

In 1994, Myers was honored with the ALA’s Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime contribution to young adult literature. His 1999 novel Monster was a National Book Award Finalist and garnered the author the first-ever Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature. He has also won five Coretta Scott King Awards and two Newbery Awards.

“I believe that everyone is intelligent. I believe that everyone can be creative,” Myers tells young readers on his Website.“I hope that the next book, story or poem that I write will be worthy of the time the reader spends with it. If it is, then my life is successful. If it’s not, then I’ll try again.”