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Writer and Newman Alumnus Stephen Godchaux Delivers the Bernard Hirsch Herman Memorial Lecture

12/1/2010
Isidore Newman School was pleased to welcome noted alumnus Stephen Godchaux ’77 to the School on November 19, 2010, as the Bernard Hirsch Herman Memorial Lecturer. Speaking to the Upper School in Newman’s Henson Auditorium, Mr. Godchaux spoke about his time at Newman, his transition to a remarkable career as a screenwriter for television, and how to navigate the failures that pave the way to success.

[FULL STORY]

 

Isidore Newman School was pleased to welcome noted alumnus Stephen Godchaux ’77 to the School on November 19, 2010, as the Bernard Hirsch Herman Memorial Lecturer. Speaking to the Upper School in Newman’s Henson Auditorium, Mr. Godchaux spoke about his time at Newman, his transition to a remarkable career as a screenwriter for television, and how to navigate the failures that pave the way to success.

 

Mr. Godchaux was introduced by Adam Herman ’00, a Newman alumnus and brother of Bernard Herman, whom the lecture commemorates. Herman dedicated the event to four people: The first was Bernard, of whom he said, "During his lifetime, he left footprints on quite a significant number of hearts, and meaningful impressions on the minds of many." The second was the late Dr. Hal Sheets, who influenced Bernard and many others during his time at the School. The third was Mr. Godchaux. And the fourth was the Newman Student – each and every listener in the audience.

 

Mr. Godchaux then took the stage to talk about his life and career. He cautioned the students that he would not recommend his path from Newman to his current career. Godchaux admitted that much of his thirteen years at Newman was spent unfocused on academics, but highly focused on popularity. A glimmer of his future emerged in his sophomore year when then Head of School and English teacher Teddy Cotonio assigned The Moviegoer by Walker Percy. “I had remarkable teachers at Newman who turned me onto great books.” Godchaux’s path through college, law school, and his early career typified his school experience – still focused on the popular. Only after leaving his law career, attending Yale School of Drama, and working for a few years as a writer did he find the path that fit. He admitted that the path can still be challenging.

 

Godchaux described what he had learned from his own failures. He said that there are two kinds of failures. One in which you know you haven’t given it your all and one in which you leave “it all on the field” regardless of the outcome. The latter is a failure you can live with while the former can haunt you. Godchaux also shared his own personal experience with depression and encouraged anyone battling with depression to not go it alone and to know that they can emerge from the experience a stronger person. Godchaux’s theme of perseverance in the face of failure resonated with the students in the audience, who gave him a standing ovation at the end of his talk.

 

Stephen Godchaux is a graduate of Isidore Newman School, Dartmouth College (B.A., English and History), Tulane University Law School, and Yale University (M.F.A., Playwriting). After college, he practiced law for several years for a law firm in San Francisco before becoming a writer and producer. Godchaux has written for a dozen television shows, including Roseanne and Spin City, and was executive producer and head writer of Showtime’s critically acclaimed Dead Like Me. He also has written television pilots for CBS, NBC, Fox, and ABC, working with producers such as Steven Bochco, Darren Star, and Harold Ramis.

 

This year, the USA Network has picked up the pilot of a new series, Wild Card, written and produced by Godchaux. This character-driven drama follows the exploits of two Las Vegas-based attorneys. Godchaux has lectured widely on writing. In addition to writing the pilot for USA, he is currently adapting Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer as a screenplay.

 

The Bernard Hirsch Herman Memorial Lecture honors a thirteen-year Greenie and distinguished member of Newman's Class of 2004, celebrating his unique talents, his intellectual insights both spoken and written, and his sharp sense of humor. Bernard viewed writing as an essential means of expressing himself and affirming the dignity of all. Son of Mollie Solomon Herman '71 and the late Avram C. Herman, and brother of Adam J. Herman '00, Bernard was a regular contributor to the Pioneer at Newman and was selected by his classmates as their Commencement speaker. He went on to study creative writing at Brandeis University, where he was also a senior writer and photographer for the independent student newspaper, Justice. The annual lecture brings a noted author to campus to speak and conduct workshops with classes.