Deborah Smullyan shepherds the living by day, and consorts with the dead by night — or, rather, with their stories. As a class report editor in Alumni Affairs and Development (AA&D) and the obituaries editor for Harvard Magazine (her after-hours gig), Smullyan spends a lot of time reflecting on the lives of Harvard’s alumni. “I’m very wrapped up, every day of the week, in Harvard’s human stories,” she said. Few things terrify most of us more than the thought of committing our lives to paper, of boiling the good, the bad, the ugly, and the transcendent down to a few paragraphs. But after editing thousands of entries for the Red Books, as the class reports are more commonly known, and writing hundreds of obituaries each year, Smullyan has come to see the comforting, even inspiring patterns in the constant parade of Harvard lives. “I think it has made me wiser,” she said. “I will...
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