Pulitzer winner who attended Durham Tech will be 2023 Commencement speaker

Pulitzer Prize winner and former Durham Technical Community College student Elizabeth Fenn will be the college’s 2023 Spring Commencement keynote speaker.

Dr. Fenn won the Pulitzer in the history category in 2015 for her book “Encounters at the Heart of the World: A History of the Mandan People,” which explores the role of the Native American tribe over the course of centuries.

“We are excited to welcome Elizabeth Fenn back to Durham Tech and honored to have her address our graduates this May,” said Durham Technical Community College President J.B. Buxton. “Her career path is an inspiration, and we are proud to have been part of her journey. Her story shows that there are no limits to where education can take you.”

Dr. Fenn earned a degree at Duke and did several years of graduate work at Yale.  In the mid-1980s, she returned to North Carolina and enrolled in automotive classes at Durham Technical Community College.  She then spent almost a decade working in local auto shops before returning to Yale, where she wrote a dissertation and became a historian, author and professor.

Today Dr. Fenn is a distinguished professor in the History Department at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Before joining UC-Boulder in 2012, Dr. Fenn taught at George Washington University and Duke University.   

“I am honored to have the opportunity to address graduates who are sitting where I was years ago,” Dr. Fenn said. “Durham Tech was a vital part of my professional journey, and I am grateful to have the chance to share how my experiences here affected my life.”

Commencement will be held at 7:30 p.m. May 24 at the Durham Performing Arts Center.