Mike Peters, the 1981 Pulitzer Prize winner for editorial cartooning and creator of the award-winning cartoon strip Mother Goose & Grimm, has been selected to give the 2012 Commencement address at Washington University in St. Louis, according to Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton.
The university’s 151st Commencement will begin at 8:30 a.m. Friday, May 18, in Brookings Quadrangle on the Danforth Campus.
Peters, who earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from Washington University in 1965, will address approximately 2,800 members of the Class of 2012 and their friends and family members.
During the ceremony, Peters will receive an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from WUSTL.
“It is a great honor to have one of our most distinguished graduates serve as our 2012 Commencement speaker,” Wrighton says. “I have known Mike Peters for many years and have come to appreciate how his time as an undergraduate at Washington University shaped his very impressive career. I know it will be special for him to return to his alma mater to address this year’s graduates.”
Peters is recognized as one of the country’s most prominent cartoon artists for his outstanding work as both a political and comic strip cartoonist. His favorite expression — “What a Hoot” — sums up his outlook on his life and work, which are inexorably entwined.
His editorial cartoons appear in more than 400 newspapers and publications worldwide, including Newsweek, Time and U.S. News & World Report.
Mother Goose and Grimm, the comic strip he created in 1984, now appears in more than 800 newspapers worldwide, and is consistently placed in the top 10 most popular comic strip ratings.
In 1991, Mother Goose and Grimm was introduced to millions of television viewers as Grimmy, a weekly Saturday morning animated television series on CBS.
In addition, “Peters Postscripts,” the first animated editorial cartoons to appear regularly on a prime-time network news program, aired on NBC’s Nightly News in 1981.
He appeared in The World of Cartooning with Mike Peters, a 14-part interview series for the Public Broadcasting Service.
Born in St. Louis in 1943, Peters has been interested in cartooning, and particularly political cartooning, since his childhood growing up in the Dogtown neighborhood.
He recalls as a young boy being encouraged to draw by his mother, the late Charlotte Peters, who was host of a popular variety show on St. Louis television from the 1950s until 1970.
After earning his degree from Washington University’s School of Art, he immediately began his career on the art staff of the Chicago Daily News. In 1966, he was drafted into the U.S. Army and spent two years as an artist for the Seventh Psychological Operations Group in Okinawa.
After Vietnam, his mentor, the renowned World War II artist Bill Mauldin, helped him find a cartooning position on the Dayton Daily News, which has been the home newspaper for his editorial cartoons since 1969.
By 1972, his editorial cartoons were syndicated nationally and, in 1981, Peters received a Pulitzer Prize for journalism.
He has become familiar to thousands through his many appearances on news shows such as ABC’s Good Morning America, CBS’ The Early Show and NBC’s Today.
Peters, who has published more than 40 collections of his work, is the recipient of virtually every major honor in his profession.
In 1994, the Dayton Daily News celebrated Peters’ 25 years as their editorial cartoonist with a roast. Many respected cartoonists gathered in Dayton to honor him, and George Voinovich, the governor of Ohio at the time, designated Sept. 24, 1994, as “Mike Peters Day.”
His numerous honors also include Overseas Press Citations, the Overseas Press Award, two Robert F. Kennedy Awards, an honorary degree from the University of Dayton and a Distinguished Alumni Award from Washington University.
Strong WUSTL ties
Peters says he is grateful to Washington University for success in both his professional and personal life. It was at WUSTL where teachers, such as the late Richard H. Brunell, a professor of art, encouraged him to pursue his passion for cartooning.
It was also at Washington University where Peters met Marian, his wife of 47 years.
Peters hasn’t been a stranger to WUSTL since his graduation. He has been invited back to deliver three Assembly Series lectures since 1981.
During his Assembly Series lecture in 2000, he delivered the annual Benjamin E. Youngdahl Lecture in Social Policy and inaugurated a special exhibition, called “Advocates for Change: 75 Years of Journalism and Social Work,” as part of the 75th anniversary of Washington University’s Brown School.
He has also returned to campus for Homecoming and reunions of former Student Life newspaper staff members. A cartoonist for the paper while a student in the 1960s, he delivered a dinner talk as part of Student Life’s 125th anniversary celebration in 2003.
Peters was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame with a star on Delmar Boulevard in 2002.