Mary Higgins Clark, FCLC ’79;
international bestselling author
Mary Higgins Clark has built an illustrious career on gripping stories, most of them suspense novels that have captivated millions. But her own story could have been written by another famous author, Horatio Alger, whose tales of hard-won success seem to typify her path to prominence.
Her literary fame, and her education at Fordham, came after years of striving and setbacks.
She grew up in the Bronx, not far from the Fordham campus at Rose Hill. Her father had died when she was eleven, so after high school she decided to forgo college so she could help provide for the family. She went to secretarial school and worked in an advertising agency, and then as an airline stewardess, before settling down to raise a family of her own.
Then adversity struck again. In 1964, when she was a young mother of five, her husband died of a heart attack. She went to work writing radio scripts and decided to try writing books. Her first effort, a biographical novel about George Washington, caught little attention. In 1975, however, she achieved her first bestseller with the publication of Where are the Children?
It was around this time, a turning point in her life, that she enrolled at Fordham College at Lincoln Center to fulfill an ambition that had been put on hold for years.
“Going to Fordham for five years at night to earn a degree helped in my thinking and made me feel better about myself,” she says. “It sharpened and enhanced everything I was doing.”
She graduated with a degree in philosophy in 1979, and stayed involved with the University, serving on the Board of Trustees from 1990 to 1996 and speaking at the commencements for Fordham College at Lincoln Center in 1988 and 1997.
Her books have sold more than 85 million copies in the United States alone; two of them were written while she attended Fordham.
She is active in the Catholic Church, and her religious faith and Jesuit education are shown in her writing—specifically, in the lack of graphic sex and violence.
“I think Alfred Hitchcock movies were classics of suspense, yet nobody was blown up,” she says. “You can have passion without the graphic descriptions.”
Fordham awarded her an honorary doctorate of humane letters in 1993, one of 18 honorary doctorates she has received. She has received numerous other awards and honors, including the Horatio Alger Award, the Grand Prix de Literature of France and the Ellis Island Medal of Honor. She was named a Bronx Legend in 1999.