2003 Hamilton College Honorary Degree
Presented to Roger W. Straus, Jr. ’39
In an age of mass-market, conglomerate publishing, one house has stubbornly resisted the corporate commercial tide to maintain its commitment to authors and books of distinction. Since its founding 57 years ago, Farrar, Straus has, under your hands-on leadership, adhered to high standards and sound publishing values in producing books of international renown.
Born in New York City, you were first drawn to journalism as a teenager, thanks to a summer job as a newspaper copyboy. Although lacking a high school diploma, you managed to gain admission to Hamilton with the Class of 1939, but transferred after two years to the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism. You soon found yourself involved with book editing and packaging, and after leaving the Navy at the end of World War II, you decided that, since “newspapers wrap up fish” while “books are in the library forever,” you would definitely pursue book publishing as your career.
With John Farrar you launched Farrar, Straus & Co. in 1946, and from its modest beginnings you built the house into a comfortable home for innumerable Nobel laureates, Pulitzer Prize winners, and other authors of eminence, including European and Latin American writers whose works were introduced for the first time to readers in this country by what is now Farrar, Straus & Giroux. With your personal nurturing touch and what has been described as your “fabled charm,” you have kept faith with them, and they have rewarded you with loyalty.
Although called “the Last Great Gentleman Publisher,” you have been far from gentle over the years in your critique of trends in your industry. Your very independence, however, combined with your success in creating our nation’s foremost literary publishing house, has earned you recognition as one of the great book publishers of our time, and of all time.
Roger W. Straus, Jr., acting on the authority of the Board of Trustees, I am very pleased to confer on you the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters of Hamilton College, admitting you to all of its rights and privileges. In token whereof, we invest you with this hood.
Eugene M. Tobin
May 25, 2003