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Comic Books to College President

Susan Notes:

Here is an excerpt from a profile of the University of Iowa President Sally Mason. Note how she credits an early love of comics with laying the foundation for future academic success. It reminds me of my own childhood: when I was sick in bed I could count on my dad bringing me a stack of ten shiny, new comic books, Archie & Veronica among them.

from Iowa Alumni Magazine

Growing up in New Jersey, Mason knew that education was a rare privilege. Her father, a Czech immigrant, World War II veteran, and a big, burly trucker, only finished eighth grade. Her mom, an Indiana native who passed on a love of state fairs to her daughter, barely finished high school before going to work in a New York City department store and then as a homemaker.

A charming family ritual helped lay the foundation for Mason's future academic success. Every day, Mason's father would sit her on his lap and read her the newspaper "funnies." One time, he skipped a panel, and his observant daughter pointed out, "Daddy, you missed one." Astonished, he realized that she'd managed to connect the words he read aloud to the ones written on the paper.

From then on, they developed a new routine: every Friday, on payday, Mason's father took her to the local corner store and gave her a dollar to buy ten comics. Thrilled, she'd scoop up a week's supply of reading material—everything from the adventures of Archie and Veronica to the exploits of superheroes.

Reading became her primary hobby—and a lifelong joy. Mason still remembers her excitement when her mother first took her to their local library. By sixth grade, she'd devoured almost every book in the children's section, so she graduated to the adult library. The family television would sit blank and quiet in the corner while Mason worked her way through book after book. "I was such a nerdy kid," she laughs. "Summer vacation always felt too long; I couldn't wait to get back to school—and new books."

— Tina Owen
University of Iowa Alumni Magazine


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