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Norah Piehl

Norah Piehl

Executive director | Boston Book Festival | Class of 1999

Norah Piehl arrived at Illinois in the fall of 1996, intent on earning a Ph.D. in English literature and becoming an educator.

And then this happened:

“I loved my coursework and research, but I quickly discovered upon teaching First-Year Rhetoric that perhaps teaching wasn’t my calling after all,” says Piehl (MA '99, English). “It’s probably telling that my fondest memories of that time were discussing the most recent episodes of the brand-new show ‘South Park’ with my students.

“I started to pursue other possible career directions, and stumbled across an opportunity at the University of Illinois Press for a graduate student in English to pursue an internship in the copy editing department.

“There, I discovered challenging work that I was also good at, and thanks to the high standards and mentorship of amazing publishing professionals like Theresa Sears, Ann Lowry and Willis Regier, I thrived there, accepted a full-time job at UIP after finishing my master’s degree, and wound up devoting my career to books.

“I think it’s a testament to the rich intellectual environment at UIUC that even though I decided not to follow the precise road I had originally intended, there were still plenty of other paths to explore.”