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Lyric Wallwork Winik '84 Receives Letter-In-Life Award
Greg Waxberg

The Letter-In-Life Award is the highest honor bestowed on a graduate by Pingry. It honors those who, by earning distinction in their careers, have brought honor to the School. Ms. Winik received the award during Convocation for the 2023-24 school year.

The Alumni Association of The Pingry School presents this Letter-In-Life Award to Lyric Wallwork Winik of the Class of 1984

Lyric Wallwork Winik is an award-winning writer and author, who has been called “the go-to scribe for political memoirs” by long-time New York Times reporter Marian Burros after Ms. Winik’s collaborations with notable figures on bestselling books. The Washington Post has called her “a gifted crafter of sentences.” Her Pingry education helped her learn how to craft those sentences, both in the classroom and during her four years of writing and editing for The Pingry Record. After graduation, she attended Princeton University, where she majored in English Language and Literature. Inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa honor society, she was selected as the class poet and also received the Academy of American Poets’ e.e. cummings Society Prize for her original poetry in her Princeton thesis.

Ms. Winik’s next stop was Wuhan, China as a Princeton-in-Asia fellow teaching at Hubei College of Education, where her students were high school English teachers and administrators, most of whom had grown up during the Cultural Revolution and never attended college. After a brief stint working in the U.S. Senate and completing a master’s degree in American History at the Johns Hopkins University, she wrote a book with a Holocaust Survivor, Run East: Flight From the Holocaust, and realized she had a love for helping people tell their stories.

Ms. Winik initially took that love of storytelling to magazine journalism. She spent fourteen years (1995 to 2009) as Parade Magazine’s Washington Correspondent, publishing over thirty-five cover and lead stories and writing a weekly column. One of her reports, about a surviving stairway, located at the World Trade Center and used to flee the Twin Towers on 9/11, generated the largest reader and online response in Parade’s history and was instrumental in preserving the stairs from demolition. She has profiled heads of state, Nobel Prize laureates, and leading public figures, along with everyday people who have done extraordinary things.

In 2009, the attorney representing then-First Lady Laura Bush’s upcoming memoir asked Ms. Winik if she would be willing to add her name to a list of potential writers for Mrs. Bush’s book, since Mrs. Bush had been interviewed multiple times by Ms. Winik and “would recognize” her name. Thinking nothing would come of it, Ms. Winik agreed. Mrs. Bush ultimately selected Ms. Winik as her collaborator for Spoken from the Heart, which became a highly praised, number-one bestseller. Thus, a career change.

Other books followed, including working with First Lady Michelle Obama on her book American Grown, which focused on the White House Kitchen Garden, and also debuted at number one on the New York Times Best Sellers List. As her list of books expanded, Ms. Winik made it her mission to listen to people’s stories, treat those stories with care, explore “big picture” questions, and bring individual lives to light in surprising ways. She listens to people’s stories first, as a blank slate, without being swayed by other portrayals of them.

Her collaborative books have repeatedly debuted in the Top 10 of the New York Times Best Sellers List. She has collaborated on over a dozen books, including activist Manal Al-Sharif’s 2018 memoir, Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman’s Awakening. On the eve of the book’s publication, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia finally granted women the right to drive. Oprah Winfrey’s O Magazine selected it as a “must-read.” Her 2021 release with Jory Fleming, How to Be Human: An Autistic Man’s Guide to Life, reached number one in all books on Amazon within days of its release.

Among her honors, Ms. Winik received the American Jewish Press Association’s Simon Rockower Award for Excellence in Jewish Journalism for her profile on Hans Munch, the last surviving Nazi doctor from Auschwitz, which appeared in Moment Magazine, and she was a finalist for the University of Michigan’s Livingston Award for Young Journalists, given to journalists under the age of thirty-five for outstanding achievement in reporting. She is a longtime volunteer in public education, and in 2022 received the MCCPTA’s PTA President of the Year award for her exceptional service to students, teachers, and parents in the nation’s fifteenth-largest school district. She has led major initiatives on student mental health and school safety and helped oversee a parent-run food pantry, serving more than 100 high school families.

She returned to Pingry in 2016 as the keynote speaker for Career Day, when she encouraged every student to become a writer, so they are always able to communicate with words; as well as to find something they can be passionate about; listen to the people around them without preconceived notions; give 150 percent to every project; and understand that everyone’s work is valuable.

Through her outstanding achievements as a writer and author, and community education leader, Lyric Wallwork Winik has earned distinction. Through this distinction, she has brought honor to The Pingry School.

Proudly presented this eighth day of September 2023

Contact: Greg Waxberg ’96, Communications Writer, Editor of The Pingry Review