A weekly inside look at the unique faces and personalities that make up The College of Wooster community.

Nancy Grace, a professor of English retir
ing after 31 years at the College, 

What made you realize you wanted to be a journalist?

I was 10, 11 or 12 and I grew up in a small town — Lexington, Ky. — and the paper there was the Mansfield News Journal. They never published much at all about Lexington except for when the men’s basketball team won. That made me mad, so I said, “I’m gonna be a journalist when I grow up and create a paper that will put the Mansfield News Journal out of business!” That didn’t happen, but that’s when I first realized myself. Journalism is a good thing and people whose voices need to be heard need journalism to get their voices out there.

What made you switch careers from being a paralegal to a journalist?

I was working for this really huge law firm in Cleveland … I was working on a case, the EEOC [equal employment opportunity committee] vs JCPenney and this firm I worked for represented the store. The EEOC was saying that JCPenney was not paying women employees equally to the men and my job was this research project to claim that JCPenney’s was not unfairly paying their female employees. I turned in this really good report to the attorney representing JCPenney and he loved it and had me guard the files as a reward for good work, an easy job. But after hours and days of this, I thought, “This is not right; these women deserve more pay and why am I sitting here guarding these stupid files?” That’s when I decided I quit.

What are the dynamics of women compared to men working in journalism?

There are a lot more women working in journalism now than there were 30-40 years ago, definitely … I think it’s still hard for women to make their way up that editorial ladder if that’s the way they want to go — it’s a difficult profession, it doesn’t pay well and there’s all these moral and ethical obligations and responsibilities attached to it … There is still an incredible amount of sexism that women have to face and not just in the office but in going out and interviewing. It’s not easy; it’s not easy at all. Racism is of course a large problem in our society, but I think sexism is just as big, but more hidden, more invisible.

What was your experience like working on the newspaper during the older protests going on?

When I came in 1987, the College had actually shut down the paper because it was so awful, the students had just let it go. The students were saying they wanted someone to help them with this, as was the administration, so the English Department said they were going to offer a course in news writing — I was hired to do that. Fairly quickly, those groups of students got it together and started to publish a really good paper — not really because of my class, but because they decided it was important to us.

Then during the ’89 protest, I asked the editor if the journalism class could put out an issue, you know, “Are you willing to turn the paper over to us for one issue?” So the week that this group was putting out the Voice that was the week of the Galpin Takeover, so that class covered it. The bylines are of students from my journalism class, not the editors of the paper.

How have political protests and activism evolved during your time at Wooster?

My first impression is that it has remained the same. Like back when a student talked about Take Back the Night, women were doing that in the ’80s. There were protests when the administration wanted to get rid of the dance department years ago, that part of the theatre major. When there is something that bothers Wooster students, they are not afraid to say, “Hey, this is what we believe in,” and that has been consistent.

What was it like working for the Center of Diversity and Inclusion in its beginning stages?

Grant Cornwall, when he came in as president, started that and economics professor Amyaz Moledina the first faculty member, so there were a couple people before me. It struggled a lot; it’s a hard, complex office to create and to function just because it’s work is so hard and it’s not sexy work at all, it’s not like renovating the gymnasium or building a new science building. It’s dirty work, and I mean that people don’t want to think about those issues, and so when you do, you ruffle feathers. You don’t see a lot of progress; you make a lot of progess, but it’s not like putting up a building so you can say, “Wow, look what we did.” Changing one’s mind about social justice takes great patience and perseverance, and you never know when you will see results. It’s like teaching; you just don’t know what will work that day.