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February 26th, 2014 by smorriss

The alumni magazine is part of the College’s Office of Public Affairs, and many people on campus assume that we have a staff photographer. We do not. That would be lovely, of course, and perhaps it will happen in the future. But for now, the images you see in the Magazine (and on this website, and in all Holy Cross publications) are taken by freelancers, student interns, occasionally one of us on staff or…[pause for dramatic effect]…John Buckingham. John is a member of the AV department, and can be seen at various campus events manning the video equipment or helping Jesse Anderson, our AV guru, with his work in every corner of campus.


But John also has an eye for photos. And he is kind enough to shoot for me when there is a campus event or a student who needs a portrait taken to go along with a Magazine story. Sometimes, when John turns in images from an assignment, he surprises me with a few bonus shots. Such was the case this week, when John attended English Professor Helen Whall’s class to snap some shots for our upcoming Spring issue’s Syllabus page. On the walk back to his office in Stein, John paused in front of St. Joseph Memorial Chapel. It’s a familiar shot for any Crusader, but in John’s new images you can see the piles of snow out front, and get a feel for the steely winter grayness that had lingered on campus for weeks. Are we ready for spring? Oh my, yes.

The Shift to Spring…and Stories

January 23rd, 2014 by smorriss

The spring semester has begun! After a month of almost utter silence on campus, the students and faculty have returned. Once again, Ugg boot prints criss-cross the snow on the Hoval and the line is more than five deep at Cool Beans. Everything is bustling and the quiet that settles in over the holiday break is broken…when you work in the Hogan Center, it feels almost eerie when the students are gone. At first, it’s nice to have more open spots in the parking lot, but by the time the semester revs up again, I am ready to see the place full again. For the Magazine, the happy side effect is that as the campus reaches full population once again, story ideas start popping up in my mailbox.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Some of our best story ideas come from our readers. And I always want to encourage folks to send those ideas to us (if there’s one on your mind, here’s the Holy Cross Magazine email address: hcmag@holycross.edu).

One that has captured my attention this week is from Professor Ed O’Donnell from the history department. He noted that the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall is coming up in November of this year, and with so many Holy Cross students studying the Cold War, it might make an interesting peg on which to hang a feature story. I agreed, and started asking around campus and among our alumni if anyone had an interesting story to share about their memories of the Wall coming down. I extend that invitation to you, the blog followers. I’ll eventually be compiling the most compelling tales and memories into a story that will run in the fall or winter issue.

And really, that is today’s “behind the ’zine” tidbit…that all features start with a single idea, and then the process of tugging at the thread and gathering a variety of stories and insights takes its sometimes circuitous route. Only then can the writing begin.


This is a fragment of the Berlin Wall at the Imperial War Museum in London. If you witnessed the Wall coming down, or experienced that world event in some special way, please contact me. I’d love to hear your story. hcmag@holycross.edu


It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

December 10th, 2013 by smorriss


It’s just about mid-December. A fluffy snow is falling across Worcester, giving our gorgeous campus here on Mount St. James the appearance of a boxed Christmas card. (Don’t judge this based on my meager photo skills, exhibit A above. Trust me, it’s pretty!) It is, as the carol says, the “most wonderful time of the year.” But not for the tinsel and mistletoey reasons you might think. No, dear readers, this is the most wonderful time of year because the Winter issue is at the printer, sluicing across the presses, and we are at the very front end of starting the Spring issue. This is the week when we breathe a sigh of relief that Winter is “in the can,” and all there is to do is await the arrival of the boxes that tell us the magazine is winging its way across the globe to alumni and parents in every state and several countries. And this is the week when all the pages for the Spring magazine are blank, and we get to start filling them with the great story ideas that have been percolating for a few months.

Although the editorial line up is always subject to change, right now I think we’ll be bringing you a touching piece about the alumni who funded a gorgeous renovation of Brooks Music Hall. If you haven’t seen it, get ready for a treat when you see the images we’re going to capture at the big kick off concert Jan. 28. I’m also going to try to do another photographic walk about in Hogan…the last time I did that with photographer Dan Vaillancourt, it was on whim. Frankly, we were just killing time between events that Dan and I were covering. But it turned out to be a neat way to meet a bunch of students and hear about what they were up to…and it gave us a quick and interesting slice of life story. So be on the lookout for that.

We’ll also be prepping a big feature on the 200th anniversary of the Restoration of the Jesuits. I’m learning a lot about our pals in the Society of Jesus as I research this piece. It’s fascinating! And a few of your favorite Fathers are going to be penning parts of the final story, which is going to be a treat.

As always, if you have a story idea you’d like to see in the pages of Holy Cross Magazine, just holler. Email is the best way to reach me: hcmag@holycross.edu.


Down to the Wire

November 18th, 2013 by smorriss

When you’re five days out from deadline, the niceties of office life fall by the wayside. When we’re not this close to deadline (the winter issue goes to the presses on Friday, Nov. 22…ack!), I would never have eaten the beef teriyaki entree special from Crossroads at my desk WITH my intern sitting right next to me. Not that the beef teriyaki isn’t great…but I have always maintained that for odor etiquette purposes, there are two things one never eats in an office setting: Asian food and fish. Those are simply two odors that (although the eater may love) not everyone likes to encounter at their desk.

Another office rule often broken as deadline hastens its approach: the refiling of any and all materials yanked out of heretofore organized drawers and bins for research purposes. Exhibit A: This photo of the editor’s desk today (and yes, I’m using “the editor” so as to distance myself from the fact that I am said editor with messy desk).



So when you are reading your Winter issue, with the touching stories of alumni who volunteer and work at the Nativity School of Worcester and the students who went on a once-in-a-lifetime research trip to Naples with their professor to study the artisans who craft intricate figurines for elaborate Italian Nativity scenes, think of my poor officemates who had to put up with teriyaki wafting through the halls and an unsightly mess every time they passed my door. Perhaps blogging about it here will be my motivation for a “before and after” photo gallery in a future post?

I’m curious…are there any Crusaders out there who advocate for unkempt work spaces? Some say it is the sign of a creative mind. Comments (and photographic evidence) welcome!


Halloween Hijinks

November 4th, 2013 by smorriss

Designer Crayon Costume

It’s not all jpegs and editing over here in Holy Cross Magazine land. No, we cut loose a little bit from time to time. Exhibit A: Our creative guru…lord of the layouts…Mr. C.M. Whykay himself…Magazine Designer Stephen Albano. He dresses in costume every Halloween, and this year went for a classic Red Crayon ensemble. Appropos, don’t you think, for an artist/designer?

And now, just like every office across America, we are dealing with the detritus of Halloween: overflowing candy dishes. If I see one more fun-size Snickers I may weep. It’s enough to make an editor leave her Mac, walk down to Crossroads, and buy an apple (gasp!).


Postal Tease

October 25th, 2013 by smorriss

That’s what you all are: postal teases! You see, in the two or three weeks following the “drop date” of any new issue, our mailbox gets a wee bit fuller with envelopes—actual envelopes with handwritten addresses and real stamps in the corners. Sigh…I’ve always been a sucker for a real letter that finds me with the help of a pretty stamp. But I digress: These letters arrive and I greedily gather them in a small pile on my desk. I push aside the keyboard for a few moments of old-school communication. “What will THIS one say?” I breathlessly ask myself (in my head, not out loud. Okay, sometimes out loud). “Will it be a letter from a reader who really loved that cover? Or that Flashback story? Or has a cool story idea we’ve never even thought of?” Hopes run high as the letter opener nudges under the envelope flap.

Then, like a balloon 10 days after the birthday party, my high hopes deflate. It’s not a commentary on our most recent features, nor is it a lead on a story that will end up on the cover. It’s a change of address notice. Sigh.

Of course, I’m  being dramatic here. Changes of address are a part of running a magazine, and we definitely want those notices so we can make sure you keep getting your Holy Cross Magazine. So please don’t stop sending them in. But next time you move, after the boxes are unpacked and tape guns are put away, could you write a letter to go with the change of address? Pretty please? Thanks.

The Giant Pencil

October 16th, 2013 by smorriss

Readers of Holy Cross Magazine have seen a version of this portrait at the top of my Editor’s Page for five years now:


Simple, with a pop of color, right? My hair is combed. I remembered lipstick that day. All that, combined with photographer John Buckingham’s judicious photo shop work made for a suitable editor’s page photo. What you never knew, dear readers, until now, is that I brought a prop with me that day to John’s studio in Stein Hall. The G.P.: Giant Pencil. Here’s the shot, uncropped:



That’s right, folks, it’s a working 16″ pencil that I keep in my office for three reasons: 1. It serves as a conversation piece, 2. it reminds me that no matter what is going on, a good magazine story starts with the writing, and 3. it entertains colleagues’ children who occasionally visit our offices. When people ask “Why do you have that?!” as they often do, I like to say “It’s for writing the big stories.” And of course, the accompanying M.E. (Mammoth Eraser, see below) is for when I make the big mistakes.



Why am I sharing this with you now, after five years? To poke fun at myself, I suppose. Admittedly, I look fairly ridiculous awkwardly holding an oversize pencil near my face while I grin the grin of a person just starting a new and exciting job.  But after five years, I can still smile and say that we haven’t had much cause for using that mammoth eraser. We hope to keep it that way. Thanks for reading!


College Food: How Good Can It Get?

October 14th, 2013 by smorriss


One of the great equalizers for all college students, it seems, is the right to complain about the food served in the campus cafeterias. And certainly, readers from the Classes in the 1950s and 1960s have regaled me with tales of “mystery meat” served family style at the long tables in Kimball (above, in all its columned glory). But in the five years I’ve worked at Holy Cross…and dined in the many eateries on campus…I have never heard a student complain about the grub. In fact, I hear them recommending certain dishes to visitors, including the much-ballyhooed mac and cheese AND the equally ballyhooable* protein smoothies in Cool Beans. We’ve toyed for a couple of years with the idea of a “Food Issue” for Holy Cross Magazine, in which we would shine the heat lamp on alumni who have made careers in the food industry. But we’d also fold in some recipes from our own College chefs for the vittles that earn them rave reviews (can someone please pass those cannoli balls? And that honey sesame chicken?) I welcome hearing what your favorite food memories are from your campus days. Bon appetit!

* As an editor, I reserve the right to make up words from time to time.

Gettin’ Themey with It

October 14th, 2013 by smorriss

Although we don’t set out to create themed issues at Holy Cross Magazine, sometimes it just turns out that way. The in-progress Winter 2014 issue is a prime example: Over the summer we heard that Professor Sarah Stanbury had said “ciao!” to American shores and landed in Italy for a research trip. There, Stanbury, three students and a photographer traveled to visit artisans in Naples and other Italian cities who create the figurines that populate the elaborate (and I mean ELABORATE) Nativity scenes that one finds in Italy’s town squares, churches and private homes. The hand-crafted figurines are called “presepi.” Now, I consider myself a devotee of Christmas decor and collectibles, but somehow my radar had never picked up on this stratum of holiday craft. What better time to showcase the Stanbury crew’s beautiful Nativity findings than the Winter issue, which hits mailboxes just before Christmas? With that decision made on the issue, I was feeling jollier by the minute, even as the late-summer humidity made Hogan feel a little sticky.

Then we realized that our long-planned story about The Nativity School of Worcester—where so many Holy Cross students and alumni volunteer and work with the amazing middle-school boys there—would land in the Winter issue as well. With the school’s 10th anniversary gala in October, we had just enough time to get lovely photos to wrap up a feature that we’ve been working on for 5 months, design a great story package and tuck it into the Winter pages. I have to tell you…this is one of those features that you cannot WAIT to share with people. Our writers prepared a “day in the life” story, following one young man who as an 8th grader already knows he wants to be a cardiologist, and describes the hard work he knows it will take him to achieve that goal. Readers are going to flip over this lad…I have a good feeling about a wave of letters to the editor filling my mailbox once this story makes its way into readers’ hands.

And so our Winter issue appears to have a theme: Nativity figurines and the Nativity School. I promise both stories will be enlightening and uplifting…and I promise to quell any desire I may have to put a photo of the Crusader in a Santa hat on the cover.

Quick reminder: Anytime you have a story idea, especially one that has a great human interest angle or quirky twist, please drop us a line at hcmag@holycross.edu.

Welcome to “Behind the Zine”

October 11th, 2013 by smorriss


Did you ever see that show “Ugly Betty”? Or the deliciously re-watchable  Anne Hathaway/Meryl Streep vehicle “The Devil Wears Prada”? Both show the glamorous, stiletto-sharp pace of working at a glossy print magazine…where white-tablecloth lunches double as business meetings and at any moment a coiffed senior editor in an impeccably tailored jacket could rush in and say “stop the presses!” Ah, the magazine publishing life.


That’s not exactlywhat it’s like behind the scenes at Holy Cross Magazine. We typically take our lunches in Crossroads, and not a single one of us owns a pair of stilettos (although our assistant editor does sport some lovely tailored jackets). And although the staff recently paid a visit to our printer in Vermont (see the presses rolling, above), we all refrained from hollering “STOP THE PRESSES!” That simply would not have made our hardworking pressmen very happy. And since they work in a place that requires frightening warning stickers such as this (below and, by the way, ouch!), we opted not to mess with them.


In this new blog venture, Behind the Zine (pronounced zeen, as in magazine), you’re not going to read about high drama and intrigue that you see in portrayals of magazine editors and designers on TV. But you will get a glimpse into how your alumni magazine is created four times a year, and see how the stories that make the page get there. I’m often asked why I like my job as the editor of Holy Cross Magazine. The answer is simple: the ideas never stop coming. There are so many important, touching, funny, nostalgic, impressive stories to tell in this place that I never have to worry how we’re going to fill each issue. And sometimes the story behind the story is the best tale of all.

So welcome to Behind the Zine. If you have a favorite story or photo from a recent Holy Cross Magazine, don’t hesitate to let me know. There may be a story behind it to share.

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