Author Mary Higgins Clark (FCLC ’79) told a crowd of 300 members of the Fordham community that her Fordham education, which she undertook later in life after some success as a writer, helped sharpen her writing and build more confidence in herself. The internationally renown best-selling author, known as the “Queen of Suspense,” lectured Tuesday, March 4 on “Life After Fordham” as part of the United Student Government’s Fordham Week celebration.
“Going to Fordham for five years at night to earn a degree helped in my thinking and made me feel better about myself,” said Higgins Clark, speaking on the Rose Hill campus. “It sharpened and enhanced everything I was doing.”
Higgins Clark, who grew up in the Bronx not far from Rose Hill, said she never dreamed of going to college when she was young because she wanted to help support her Irish-Catholic family; instead, she attended secretarial school and worked as a stewardess on Pan American Airlines. The desire to earn a degree, however, was never far from her thoughts, and after raising five children on her own (she was widowed in 1964) she enrolled at Fordham.
While a student, Higgins Clark said she managed to write two books: A Stranger Is Watching (Simon & Schuster, 1977), and The Cradle Will Fall (Simon & Schuster, 1980). Both books became best sellers. Today, Higgins Clark’s 26 mystery and suspense novels and other works have sold more than 85 million copies in the U.S.
The author said that her religion and her Jesuit education have contributed to her decision to keep graphic sex and violence out of her work, yet not abandon passion and suspense.
“I think Alfred Hitchcock movies were classics of suspense, yet nobody was blown up,” she said. “And books like Wuthering Heights throb with passion. You can have passion without the graphic descriptions that make you feel as if you’ve stumbled into someone’s physical exam.”
One of Fordham’s most active alumnae, Higgins Clark served on the University’s Board of Trustees from 1990 to 1996. She was awarded an honorary doctorate from Fordham in 1998 and was the recipient of the 2004 Fordham Founder’s Award.
The presentation was part of the Campus Activities Board’s American Age Lecture series.
Fordham Week is presented annually by the United Student Government. This year’s theme is “Hottest Catholic School,” in recognition of Fordham’s distinction as one of the “25 Hottest Schools in America” by the editors of Kaplan/Newsweek’s 2008 How to Get Into College Guide.