Isabel Allende and William C. Gordon Awarded Honorary Degrees from Whittier College 

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Whittier College
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Phone:  562.907.4912 or 562.907.4277


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Isabel Allende and William C. Gordon Awarded Honorary Degrees from Whittier College 

WHITTIER, CA (September 26, 2007) – Celebrated authors and humanitarians Isabel Allende and William C. Gordon will each receive an honorary doctorate of humane letters (L.H.D.) from Whittier College in a formal ceremony on Thursday, October 4, 7:30p.m., in the Ruth B. Shannon Center for the Performing Arts,  6760 Painter Ave. Following the conferral of these degrees, Allende and Gordon will offer brief remarks, and then remain for a book-signing and reception. This event is free and open to the public. For more information, call 562.907.4912.  

Called a “genius” by critics, Isabel Allende is one of the most prolific and lauded Latin American writers of her time. The daughter of Chile’s ambassador to Peru, Isabel Allende was born in Lima and grew up in several different countries in South America and the Middle East. While in exile in Venezuela after her cousin, Chilean President Salvador Allende, was assassinated in a coup, she began writing a letter to her dying grandfather that became her debut novel, The House of the Spirits.   

Through her use of a writing style known as “magic realism,” Allende has told the story of Chile and its people, and in particular, its women, to acclaim. She has authored more than a dozen novels, short stories and plays, and is the recipient of numerous literary awards and honors, including the U.S. Critic’s Choice Award (1996) and the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize, given for excellence in the arts, and in 2004, she was elected into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.  

Also receiving the honorary degree from Whittier College will be Allende’s husband, William C. Gordon, an attorney and author with local roots. 

During Willie Gordon’s tough childhood, he found refuge in the local library.  Determined to excel in both academics and extra-curricular activities, he was elected student body president at Whittier High School, and was awarded a national medal for his understanding of Hispanic literature. He later earned degrees from U.C. Berkeley and Hastings College of Law. 

As an attorney, Gordon practiced civil litigation and became a community activist for Spanish-speaking men and women injured on the job, finding innovative solutions for cases with difficult liability. As an author, he has completed three novels, including The Chinese Jars, published originally in Spanish, now being translated into German, Italian, Dutch, French, Polish, Portuguese, and Romanian. Gordon’s latest novel, The King of the Bottom, is planned for publication in Spain in early 2008.  

In addition to their literary work, Allende and Gordon are committed humanitarians. In memory of daughter Paula Frías, the couple established the Isabel Foundation in 1996, which seeks social justice for and the empowerment of women, girls, and children. The foundation supports select nonprofits in the San Francisco Bay area, where the couple live.  

Upon the recommendation of the faculty, and by the approval of the Board of Trustees, Whittier College awards honorary degrees to exceptional individuals whose convictions, ambitions, values, and accomplishments parallel the institution’s educational mission. This is the ninth decade in which the College has conferred honorary degrees; past recipients include MacArthur FoundationGenius Grant” winner Reuben Martinez, Manzanar Project author Dr. Gordon Sato, legendary entertainer Bob Hope, Olympic athlete Rafer Johnson, children’s author Theodore "Dr. Seuss" Geisel, and First Lady and philanthropist Lou Henry Hoover. 

Founded by Quakers in 1887, Whittier College is an independent, four-year college offering a traditional liberal arts program integrated with both professional and pre-professional courses of study. With an emphasis on diversity, community, and curricular innovation, the College’s primary mission is to endow students with the education, skills, and values appropriate for global leadership and service. Whittier College is a designated Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI).

Whittier Law School, which is accredited by the American Bar Association and is a member of the Association of American Law Schools, is located on a separate campus in Orange County.

Whittier College Office of Communications
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