Tim O ’Brien ’68

2007 Distinguished Citizen Award

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Tim O ’Brien ’68

Tim O’Brien graduated with honors in political science from Macalester, where he was also student government president. Although opposed to the Vietnam War, he went off to serve as a foot soldier in 1969–70 after he was drafted. He came home with a Purple Heart, a Combat Infantry Badge and experiences that he has transformed into literature. His critically acclaimed books include If I Die in a Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Send Me Home (1973), a memoir of his service; Going After Cacciato (1978), his classic novel about Vietnam, which received the National Book Award; and The Things They Carried (1990), a collection of stories based on his war experiences. The last of these was chosen by the New York Times as one of the most important works of fiction published in the last 25 years, and also selected as the common reading for the 2007 Macalester Reunion.

Mike Murr ’69, a high school teacher writing on behalf of the 1967, ’68 and ’69 Reunion Committee, said, "Tim O’Brien’s works speak not only to my generation who came of age during the Vietnam War but also to the high school students I teach. His books have become part of the recommended reading lists in Advanced Placement courses in literature and composition and United States history, as well as college courses. His work continues to have an impact on thousands of students in the United States and around the world."

O’Brien teaches in the creative writing program at Texas State University— San Marcos.