Alex George, a British author and lawyer who now resides in Columbia, said when Keith Goyne, associate director of academic programs in the School of Natural Resources, asked him to give the SNR spring commencement address, Goyne said he was hoping for “something a little different.”
“You have probably heard that old saying, ‘Be careful what you wish for,’” said George, who is originally from England. “I was hugely honored to be invited to give the commencement address – it is a unique opportunity to participate in what is a pivotal moment in these young people’s lives. I hope I will have some useful advice to impart.”
He will say the talk does not focus on natural resources – but doesn’t want to give away too much more about the topic before the address is given. Goyne said he sees George sharing ideas and wisdom “that our graduates will be able to reflect upon immediately and throughout life.
“Columbia is home to many wonderful and talented individuals, and Alex clearly falls into this category,” Goyne said. “His unique background and life experiences are extremely interesting, which provides ample material for developing a graduation speech.”
George’s most recent novel “A Good American,” was a national and international bestseller. He has written six novels so far and is halfway through his seventh. He also runs his own law firm here in Columbia.
George said he keeps his legal and writing jobs fairly well separated. He gets up at 5 a.m. every day to write for a couple of hours before heading into the law firm.
“Although being an attorney and a novelist are both jobs where words are crucial, in some ways they could not be more different,” George said. “My job as an attorney is to draft documents as precisely as possible so as to allow no room for ambiguity or misunderstanding. As a novelist, my words perform an entirely different function: They should set the reader’s imagination free.
“It’s nice to have the opportunity to use words in such different ways.”
George, who also organizes the local Unbound Book Festival, said the themes of his novels are all different.
“Like most writers, I honestly couldn’t tell you where the inspiration comes from. The trick, I find, is to be alert for ideas at all times, and then to hope you’re paying attention when a good one comes along,” he said.
The SNR spring commencement ceremonies will be held at 8 p.m. Saturday, May 14, in Jesse Auditorium.