College Dropout to Honorary Degree

By Lorenzo Herbert & Elizabeth Quansah
“We all Fall Down,” “Tunes for Bears to Dance to,” and “After the First Death.” What do these three books have in common? They were all books written by Robert Cormier, known as the grandfather of young adult literature. He pushed boundaries for young readers who wanted to read books that they could identify with.
 Though he was a college dropout (he dropped out of Fitchburg State University) he eventually received an honorary degree from here.  He became a world renowned author without graduating from college.
“The college’s function was to produce primary school teachers and Cormier found the curriculum unsatisfying although in retrospect useful for a future young adult fiction writer,” The Boston Globe wrote in 1980. So even though he didn’t graduate, Cormier still learned a lot through classes at Fitchburg State, and as a reporter for local newspapers.
Thirty-six years later,  Fitchburg State University will host the second annual Robert Cormier Symposium on Oct. 12 at 11 a.m. This event is part of a bigger celebration to inaugurate the president of the college, Richard Lapidus. The symposium focuses more on the books and themes of Robert Cormier than on the man himself. Topics that will be discussed are bullying, terrorism and abuse.
“We All Fall Down” is about a young woman who is sexually assaulted in her own home after a horrible break in. Through secrets and lies the main characters’ lives start to fall apart under the pressure. “Tunes for Bears to Dance to” tells the story of a young boy and an old man and the bond they share. Henry and his family move to a new city after the death of his brother. He becomes intrigued with an old man who lives next door in the so called crazy house. Little does he know the man is far from crazy. “After the First Death” is a story about terrorism. The main character, Ben, is the son of a general. He must see where his courage lies when a group of terrorist hijack a bus full of kids.
The event will have panelists from all different fields talking about the themes of his books. Psychology, criminal justice, English teaching, and communications. They will deeply analyze and break down certain parts of his works. Letters, news articles, and  his books from other countries will be on display from the archive which is located downstairs in Hammond building.
Poster for the event.