The Last Word

Obituaries editor Deborah Smullyan ’72 in the spotlight

Deborah Smullyan

This magazine’s class notes and obituaries section came to rest in contributing editor Deborah Smullyan’s hands in 1993. Though she gave up the class notes three years later, she has continued to prepare short memorials on deceased College and Arts and Sciences (GSAS) alumni, writing close to a hundred for each issue. In her day job, meanwhile, Smullyan, herself class of 1972, edits class report volumes for the Harvard Alumni Association, and this week the Harvard Gazette highlighted her double life in its pages.

Most of Smullyan’s work for this magazine is seen only by College and GSAS alumni (and for privacy reasons, online notes and obituaries are made accessible only to registered users). But those of a certain age who confess to opening their new issues straight to the obits—“To see whether I’m there yet,” as one alumnus joked—appreciate her careful efforts to distill Harvard lives into brief but personal portraits. One fan from a 1940s class wrote to tell her, “You make us all feel like family.” That was, she says, “the best compliment I ever got.”

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