Tiger of the Week: Helen Thorpe ’87

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(Simon and Schuster)

She graduated from Princeton in the mid-1980s, built a successful career, and then found herself in the spotlight for different reasons, as a political spouse. Now, the press critiques her causes, comments on her fashion choices, and speculates about what kind of first lady she will be. Sound familiar?

 
No, it’s not that first lady. Look west, to Denver, home of Helen Thorpe ’87, a journalist and author who also happens to be the new first lady of Colorado (husband John Hickenlooper was inaugurated as governor in January).
 
Thorpe has published articles in The New Yorker and Texas Monthly, and her 2009 book, Just Like Us (Simon and Schuster), followed five years in the lives of four poor, young Mexican women – two U.S. citizens and two undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as youngsters. Shortly after the book’s publication, Thorpe explained to PAW that though the girls were friends, the differences in their legal status had a “divisive, chilling effect” on the friendship. The undocumented girls realized they would face significant roadblocks as they approached college and tried to start careers.
 
According to The Denver Post, Thorpe has updated the book for its paperback release, and she’s advising a stage adaptation of the story, commissioned by the Denver Center Theatre Company and written by playwright Karen Zacarias. This week, Thorpe is being recognized for her contributions to the immigration conversation by the Denver-based Latin American Education Foundation, which selected her as the recipient of the Sol Trujillo National Lifetime Leadership Award.
 
As first lady, Thorpe has not outlined a specific agenda (she told the Post, “I don’t think I’ll be setting the tone”), but she has expressed interest in a few policy issues, including addressing child poverty in Colorado and supporting education services for children from low-income families.
 
Do you have a nominee for Tiger of the Week? Let us know. All alumni qualify. PAW’s Tiger of the Week is selected by our staff, with help from readers like you.