Doctor of Humane Letters

Cullen Murphy, 1974

For 25 years, acclaimed writer and editor Cullen Murphy wrote the comic strip Prince Valiant, which was drawn by his father, John Cullen Murphy. He is the author of many books, among them Rubbish!: The Archaeology of Garbage, with co-author William Rathje; the essay collection Just Curious; The Word According to Eve: Women and the Bible in Ancient Times and Our Own; Are We Rome?: The Fall of an Empire and the Fate of America; and God’s Jury: The Inquisition and the Making of the Modern World. His most recent book, Cartoon County: My Father and His Friends in the Golden Age of Make- Believe, was published in 2017. From 2006 until 2018, Murphy was editor at large of Vanity Fair. He is currently editor at large of The Atlantic magazine, where he served as managing editor from 1985 until 2006.

Murphy graduated cum laude from Amherst College in 1974 with a major in European studies. His exceptional service as an alumnus started when he took on the role of class secretary for the first five years after his graduation. He was a trustee of the College from 2000 to 2018, and chaired the Board of Trustees from 2012 until 2018. Murphy has been a member of a presidential search committee and the advisory budget committee, as well as a Reunion program chair. He now serves on the advisory board of The Common, Amherst’s literary magazine. His vision, integrity and thoughtful leadership have had far-reaching influence on the College.

Murphy is a former member of the governing boards of the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Emily Dickinson Museum and the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities.

Audio and transcript of Cullen Murphy’s talk, “Cleaning the Sistine Chapel: A Journalist’s Notes (photographs by Robert Polidori).”