I thought, 'This isn't why I have a Phi Beta Kappa key.'

Carolyn Meyer '57

Picture Bucknell's campus, 1953: Carolyn Meyer '57, a first-year from little Lewistown, Pa., arrives. Her father, Vic, was a 1929 graduate, so there was no question where she'd go. She wears the blue and orange freshman "dink" (beanie) with enthusiasm and commits campus fight songs to memory so she can sing them (as campus rules require) upon command from older students.

Even then she was a writer. But shy. Witty, clever male writers — Philip Roth '54 and his coterie, for example — were invited to faculty homes. Meyer, despite staff roles with radio station WVBU and The Bucknellian, and editing L'Agenda, felt "invisible." No matter. She was observing — fuel, eventually, for a life of writing.

The usual postgrad options for middle-class women circa 1957 were: secretary, teacher, nurse or marriage. At her first job, as a secretary in the Manhattan offices of a TV network, her male bosses sold time slots to advertisers and took four-martini lunches. The secretaries did the work. "I thought, 'This isn't why I have a Phi Beta Kappa key,'" she says.

Eventually she married, had a family and in her mid-20s got serious about writing. She wrote magazine articles and how-to books for children (rock tumbling, macramé, bread-baking) and then published 60 popular historical novels for young adults that bring to life figures like Helen of Troy, Charles Darwin and Marie Antoinette.

Today, at 80, she lives in Albuquerque, N.M. Through divorce, remarriage and recent widowhood, she has continued to write, turning out a book a year — two in 2015: Diary of a Waitress: The Not-So-Glamorous Life of a Harvey Girl (set in the 1920s and based on the lives of girls who worked for a chain of restaurants along the Santa Fe Railroad line) and Anastasia and Her Sisters (the Romanov royal family amid the Russian revolution).