Even though she once was suspended from Beloit Memorial High School (BMHS) by former Vice Principal Fran Fruzen because her miniskirt was too short, journalist Evelyn McDonnell has fond memories of the school and takes pride in being inducted into its 2013 Hall of Fame.
“I’ve gotten some honors in my life, but there’s nothing like being validated by the place you went to high school,” McDonnell said. Her recognition was presented during a special ceremony Friday.
McDonnell has authored and co-edited several books and has written for many major newspapers and magazines, interviewing such cultural figures as Hillary Clinton, Jay-Z, Paul McCartney, Kurt Cobain and Patti Smith. McDonnell is the author of three books — Mamarama: A Memoir of Sex, Kids and Rock n’ Roll; Army of She: Icelandic, Iconoclastic, Irrepressible Bjork, and Rock, She Wrote: Women Write About Rock, Pop and Rap, co-authored with Ann Powers. Da Capo will publish her most recent book, Queens of Noise: The Real Story of the Runaways, in May.
During the BMHS Hall of Fame ceremony, high school Principal Dr. Thomas Johnson welcomed guests, and Senior Class President Chet Bell addressed the crowd. There also was a salute from the Junior ROTC and performances by the jazz band and choir.
During her address, McDonnell told students that the road to acceptance and success isn’t always short or straight.
“Sometimes you have to break rules and make your own way,” McDonnell said.
McDonnell told students they still need to work hard and do the “right stuff” to get ahead. But she encouraged them to stay true to themselves at the same time.
McDonnell fondly recalled her Valedictorian speech in which she encouraged her fellow students to follow their passion.
“Don’t just fit in the slots, suck the marrow out of existence,” she said.
And after high school McDonnell did just that. She traveled the world interviewing famous people and expressing her ideas. It was only after high school graduation that McDonnell truly realized what a good education she received in Beloit at such a diverse high school with such quality teachers.
“I appreciated what I learned here,” she said.
Now with a young son in Los Angeles public schools, McDonnell said she’s worried about cuts to public education and said she was very thankful she as able to have a public education. Although she went on to private higher educational institutions, BMHS was the foundation of her learning.
In her parting remarks, she told students 20 minutes after they get their diploma it won’t matter what social groups they are in. And in 30 years no one will remember if someone asked them to prom.
McDonnell was born in the Los Angeles suburb of Glendale. Her parents moved her and her brother, Brett, eastward to Beloit. Here she attended Morgan Elementary School and graduated from BMHS in 1982, giving the Class of 1982 commencement speech.
She attended Brown University, graduating Magna Cum Laude in 1986 with a degree in American studies. While still in college, she began writing for Providence’s The Newspaper.
McDonnell has been the editorial director of www.MOLL.com, pop culture writer at The Miami Herald, senior editor at The Village Voice, and associate editor at SF Weekly.
She’s won several fellowships and awards, including a fellowship to the NEA Arts Journalism Institute in Theater and Musical Theater in 2009.
In 2009, after being awarded an Annenberg Fellowship to study Specialized Journalism at the University of Southern California, she returned to academia. She earned her master’s from USC in 2010 and was selected for the Phi Kappa Phi honor society. In 2010, she began teaching journalism at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.
She now lives in San Pedro with her husband, Bud, and son, Cole.