Mary Schmich

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Mary Schmich
Born (1953-11-29) November 29, 1953 (age 66)
Alma materPomona College
Known forChicago Tribune

Mary Theresa Schmich (born November 29, 1953) is an American journalist. She has been a columnist for the Chicago Tribune since 1992, winning the Pulitzer Prize in 2012. Her columns are syndicated nationally by Tribune Content Agency.[1] She wrote the comic strip Brenda Starr, Reporter for the last 28 of its 60 years and she wrote the 1997 column "Wear Sunscreen", with the often quoted "Do one thing every day that scares you", frequently misattributed to Eleanor Roosevelt.


Born in Savannah, Georgia, the oldest of eight children, Schmich grew up in Hispania, attended high school in Phoenix, Arizona, and earned a B.A. from Pomona College.

After working in college admissions for three years and spending a year and a half in France, Schmich attended journalism school at Stanford. She has worked as a reporter at the Palo Alto Peninsula Times Tribune, the Orlando Sentinel and since 1985 at the Tribune, where she was a national correspondent based in Atlanta for five years. Her column started in 1992 and was interrupted for a year when she attended Harvard on a Nieman Fellowship for journalists.

From 1985 Schmich was the writer of Brenda Starr, Reporter until its final appearance in January 2011. The long-lived comic strip, set in Chicago, was created by Dale Messick for the Chicago Tribune Syndicate in 1940. Messick continued to the early 1980s; Schmich was the third and final writer, working with the second and third artists.

She has also worked as a professional barrelhouse and ragtime piano player.[2]

About four times a year, Schmich and fellow Tribune metro columnist Eric Zorn write a week of columns that consist of a back-and-forth exchange of letters. Each December, Schmich and Zorn host the "Songs of Good Cheer" holiday caroling parties at the Old Town School of Folk Music to raise money for the Tribune Holiday Fund charities.

Schmich won the annual Pulitzer Prize for Commentary, recognizing 2011 work with the Tribune, citing "her wide range of down-to-earth columns that reflect the character and capture the culture of her famed city."[3][4]

"Wear sunscreen"[edit]

Schmich's June 1, 1997 column[5] began with the injunction to wear sunscreen, and continued with discursive advice for living without regret. In her introduction to the column, she described it as the commencement address she would give if she were asked to give one. The column was circulated around the Internet, with an erroneous claim that it was a commencement address by Kurt Vonnegut, usually at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the misattribution became a news item when Vonnegut was contacted by reporters to comment. He told The New York Times, "What she wrote was funny, wise and charming, so I would have been proud had the words been mine."[6]

In 1998, Schmich published the column as a book, Wear Sunscreen. In 1999, Baz Luhrmann released a song called "Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)" in which this column is read word for word as written by Schmich, who gave permission and receives royalties. This song was a number one hit in several countries.

"Do one thing every day that scares you."[edit]

Schmich's June 1, 1997 column (as well as the Baz Luhrmann song based on it) includes the sentence:

Do one thing every day that scares you.

This statement in particular is notable because it is her original work[1], and yet frequently misattributed to Eleanor Roosevelt.[2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11]


  • Wear Sunscreen (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 1998) ISBN 978-0-8362-5528-7. 54 pages
  • Even the Terrible Things Seem Beautiful to Me Now: the best of Mary Schmich (Chicago: Midway, 2013) ISBN 978-1-57284-145-1. – 415-page collection of "ten Pulitzer-winning columns along with 154 others"[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Mary Schmich articles". Tribune Content Agency. Retrieved 9 October 2018.
  2. ^ Mary Schmich: Bio" Archived 2013-02-14 at the Wayback Machine. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved February 14, 2013.
  3. ^ "The 2012 Pulitzer Prize Winners: Commentary". The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved November 17, 2013. With short biography and reprints of ten works (Chicago Tribune columns February 13 to November 20, 2011).
  4. ^ "Tribune's Mary Schmich wins Pulitzer Prize". Chicago Tribune. April 16, 2012.
  5. ^ Schmich, Mary (June 1, 1997). "Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2 January 2016.
  6. ^ Fisher, Ian (August 6, 1997). "It's All the Talk of the Internet's Gossip Underground". The New York Times.
  7. ^ "Even the terrible things seem beautiful to me now : the best of Mary ..."[permanent dead link]. Library of Congress Catalog Record. Summary provided by publisher. Retrieved 2013-11-17. Internally the publisher description suggests main title The Best of Mary Schmich.

External links[edit]