Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Larry’s lessons — of journalism, sure, but also of life

Larry Dupraz was retired by the time my class arrived on campus. But as we at the ‘Prince’ quickly learned, retirement had little bearing on his involvement at the paper.

Larry, as one of the upperclassmen told me early in my career at 48 University Place, “came with the building.” He defined the institution, not just with his stories of past editors and his sharp critiques of our own performance, but with the caring touch he brought to every issue that published during his long tenure at the ‘Prince.’

He showed his care brusquely, less with hugs than with zingers. We were typically told that the headline didn’t fit right, that the photo was blurry, that today’s edition could be the worst one published in 120 years. We rolled our eyes at this man who was older than our grandparents, but he usually had a point.

During my year as editor-in-chief, Larry’s successor as production manager, Brian Smith, broke his collarbone a few days before classes were set to begin for the fall semester. I called Larry — and, of course, he was at the building within five minutes.

Suddenly, the verbal darts I’d come to expect were gone. He even stopped calling me “Dicky Boy,” my DuPraz-generated nickname, for a few days. This man who learned his craft with hot lead and moveable type was quickly navigating QuarkXPress on a Mac. Needless to say, we made deadline.

My senior year, as part of a paper for a writing class, I prepared a long profile of Larry. It brought me into contact with some of my most prominent ‘Prince’ predecessors — Rhodes scholars and Pulitzer Prize-winners, and some of the most top names in journalism.

Some themes emerged. Every managing board was the “sorriest bunch of jerks ever to come through this place” — until their tenures were finished. No one was immune from his bark, but no one felt too much bite.

Most of all, he became a friend to hundreds of the undergrads who came through the door — his door — on University Place. Years or decades later, they remembered Larry’s lessons — of journalism, sure, but also of life: humility, decency, dedication, common sense.

Many would reconvene annually at the Reunions barbeque behind the ‘Prince’ building — doctors and lawyers and writers and reporters whose bond was a few years spending too many nights with too much pizza and Coke at a student newspaper. And Larry was always in the middle of the action, flipping burgers and spinning tales, among friends.

-- Rick Klein '98, editor-in-chief emeritus


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