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Director Andrea Cohen speaks to a full Writers House

Robertson Writers House Innovation Fund

Andrea Robertson

Andrea Robertson

“Why would people think accountants don’t like reading and writing?” asked Andrea Robertson ’79.

Without a doubt, Robertson — who built a long and successful corporate career — believes in supporting opportunities for student creativity.

“I enjoy listening to writers. They’re some of the most thoughtful people,” she said
during a recent visit to Merrimack’s Writers House. “We love the free flow of ideas.”
In fact, the retired group executive/corporate treasurer at MasterCard Worldwide, and her husband, Ken, are so enamored of the literary life they have created the Robertson Writers House Innovation Fund. The fund will enhance the college’s Writers in Residence program, establish a creative writing competition for students, and promote collaboration among academic disciplines.

“We like the fact that it’s interdisciplinary,” Andrea said. “The list of speakers includes business people, engineers — it just brings the whole college together.”

Added Ken: “We’re proud that we are encouraging other voices. We like to see students develop outside of the classroom — grow, expand their horizons, do something they wouldn’t normally do.”

“And we like the idea of reaching out to the community,” Andrea said, noting that author talks are open to the public and local groups have come to many Writers House events.

“The gift that Andrea and Ken have made to the Writers House is an invaluable one,” said Andrea Cohen, the Writers House director.

As the magazine went to press, Cohen greeted Writer-in-Residence Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, who spent 10 years researching her book Random Family, a chronicle of urban poverty. LeBlanc was to meet with classes across several departments, lead a writing workshop and take part in a public discussion with two of the people she wrote about in her book.

The spring Writer-in-Residence will be Pulitzer Prize-winning author Gail Caldwell. Caldwell’s and LeBlanc’s residencies are direct beneficiaries of the Robertson fund, Cohen noted.

Andrea Robertson, who serves on the college’s board of trustees, was a resident student who was involved in student government and graduated as her class valedictorian. She has “seen big changes in the growth of the college — it’s amazing what Chris (President Christopher E. Hopey) has done to revamp the campus. And what’s even more important is the direction this school is heading.”

Andrea and Ken Robertson

Andrea and Ken Robertson

The Academic Innovation Center, where the Writers House resides, is emblematic of Merrimack’s momentum, Andrea said. “It really sets the college apart. It enlivens and enriches the experience of our students — and it builds our reputation, no question about it.”

Andrea Robertson’s own reputation was built as a corporate leader at Pricewaterhouse-Coopers, IBM, MasterCard, and R.R. Donnelley & Sons, building a talent for finance and management on the skills she learned as an accounting student at Merrimack.

Now retired, she and Ken began exploring ways to give back, and were drawn by their literary interests to Merrimack’s new Writers House.

“We’re really trying to help the college get to the next level,” Andrea said. “We wanted to make a multi-year contribution, so people can plan ahead, and we didn’t want it to be too restrictive, so the Writers House has flexibility.”

Her message to fellow alumni: “You don’t have to make a huge gift to make a huge difference.”

View a full list of Writers House upcoming events at www.merrimack.edu/writershouse.

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