By Samantha Lund, News Editor
Pacific Lutheran University welcomed back and honored outstanding alumni during the Homecoming weekend festivities. Among the honored alumni, Elizabeth Pulliam Weston sat, with her husband, waiting to receive Distinguished Alumnus of 2014 award.
Weston graduated from PLU and found her way to fame and success, something every graduate hopes to find after college. Even though Weston is a highly acclaimed writer, she says being honored by her institution is a big deal.
“Your university knowing that you are doing okay is a big deal,” Weston said.
In 1985, Elizabeth Pulliam graduated from PLU with a degree in Journalism. Her peers had told her she would do great things, but she had her doubts as do a lot of PLU graduates.
Now, nearly 30 years later, Elizabeth Pulliam Weston has earned a Pulitzer Prize in 1989 and become the most-read financial columnist on the Internet with more than 12 million readers. Weston has also written four books, which moved her onto the best-selling authors list.
Weston is humble and attributes a lot of her success to the PLU environment. Being able to have one-on-one instruction from professors is irreplaceable, Weston said.
“The thing about PLU is that you get to know your professors,” Weston said. “They can work with you and get you excited about the work… what really matters is your relationship with your professors.”
One of Weston’s most famous articles, The Curse of the Unborn, won her a Pulitzer Prize. Weston was working in Alaska for the Anchorage Daily News and found that Alaska natives were dying at higher rates than the average person. After some investigation, she discovered native children were suffering from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
FAS is a disease that children get when their mother continues to drink alcohol while pregnant. Weston found that a large number of the native population of Alaska were alcoholics and many women were still drinking while pregnant, making unhealthy environments for children and causing a dramatic increase in death rates. Weston dug into the story and brought it to the attention of the country.
After earning a Pulitzer for The Curse of the Unborn, Weston moved into financial journalism. One of Weston’s first financial journalism stories was about the invention of online banking.
“What I like about journalism is that it’s interesting; there is something new every day,” Weston said. “We’re [journalists are] the ADD of the majors: we find something different every day.”
Weston wanted to write about everyday things that could help people and their wallets. Weston wrote for the Los Angeles Times, MoneyTalk and finally settled on writing a weekly financial column for MSN.
MSN stopped posting original content and hiring writers for it last year. Now, Weston works from home, has a financial advice website and freelances for many other companies. She frequently makes appearances on television and radio shows to give financial advice. Weston credits her success to the education PLU gave her, however, she did not aim for the life of success she has built.
“My friends and I all got together and talked about where we would be in the future,” Weston said. “If I ended up where I thought I would, I would still be in Alaska probably divorced to a cop.”
Weston is a PLU success story by any standards. Her advice to students is to take complete advantage of all that PLU has to offer. She attributes her fame to hard work, good grades and relationships with people who are willing to help her get to the next level.
Weston also said students need to think about the future and be less focused on the “now.” Just like finance, if students make an investment in their future now, it will pay off greatly in the future, Weston said.
“Honestly, I had some moments when I thought I wouldn’t have a job. I graduated in a recession, so people told me it would be hard to find anything. But I landed an internship at Seattle Times. So don’t believe what they tell you. Just follow your passion and your dreams.”
You can find more about Elizabeth Weston Pulliam and read some of her advice on her website http://asklizweston.com 🅼