NAME: Molly Andrews, J81

HER WORK: Professor of political psychology at the University of East London and co-director of the Centre for Narrative Research, an international hub for scholarship on the stories people tell about their lives.

WHAT SHE WILL NEVER FORGET: Her doctoral research, which led to her first book, Lifetimes of Commitment: Aging, Politics, Psychology (Cambridge University Press, 1991). “I studied fifteen men and women who had fought for social justice for half a century or longer, and my conversations with them have stayed with me all these years, reminding me that people’s lives are complex, and that not all history can be found in history books. For example, the stories most people know about the Berlin Wall concern attempts to escape East Germany, but the activist Wolfgang Templin told me that for him, the opening of the wall was significant because it meant he could finally get back into East Germany after having been forcibly exiled to the West.”

Molly Andrews, J81

Molly Andrews

WHAT SHE WILL NEVER DO: Pretend to pure academic objectivity when interviewing people about their lives. “Once we acknowledge that our own experiences influence what we hear in the words of others, we know that the way we see the world is just one of many possible ways. Only then can we embark on responsible narrative research.”

CHERISHED FAN MAIL: “The model in the original commercials for the men’s hair-styling product Brylcreem sent me a wonderful letter about my journal article ‘The Seductiveness of Agelessness,’ which I wrote on maternity leave as I was approaching forty. Why, I wondered in the piece, are we socialized to think that the only ‘good aging’ is ‘not aging’? The question struck a chord with him.”

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Beth Horning, editor-at-large for Tufts magazines, can be reached at elizabeth.horning@tufts.edu.