Former Villanovan editor wins Pulitzer



Jessie Markovetz

Diana K. Sugg ’87 still remembers her first assignment as a reporter for The Villanovan.

“I was totally nervous and didn’t know what I was doing,” she confessed.

Sugg remembers poring through the newspaper when it came out that Friday, looking for her story on a career fair. Over lunch with her friends in Dougherty Hall, she rooted through the back pages of the paper but was unable to find the article.

“I didn’t know how newspapers worked,” she said. “I thought maybe it would be in the next week.”

Having almost given up on finding the article, Sugg closed the newspaper and then realized that it ran across the top of the front page, where “I never expected it to be,” she said.

The thrill of that story may have been lost on Sugg this week, as the 37-year-old Baltimore Sun medical reporter won the Pulitzer Prize for Beat Reporting.

Sugg found out a month ago that she was a finalist in arguably the most difficult category of the competition, vying for the top prize with writers from the New York Times and Christian Science Monitor – the three finalists of 120 total entries.

She got the congratulatory call from her editor Saturday afternoon, but “it didn’t hit me until I got to the newsroom Monday,” she said.

Several hundred people, including family from the Philadelphia area, and 20 bottles of champagne awaited her at the Sun’s office that day to celebrate her achievement.

“I just kept saying, ‘Can you believe it? I won a Pulitzer!'” she recalled.

Sugg and the staff kept watching the wire for when news of her award began to be circulated. After it showed up, the newsroom exploded in applause that lasted “much longer than I imagined it would,” she said.

After her staff handed her the booklet containing her stories – wrapped, fittingly, in newspaper – her mother held it up above her head.

“Someone said they couldn’t see it, so I grabbed it, jumped up on the chair and held it up,” she laughed.

Sugg’s placement on the medical beat is fitting, as she has suffered from neurological conditions, including seizures, following a stroke at age 24.

“Having my own health problems … gave me a better understanding of what patients go through,” she said.

The Pulitzer is just the latest honor for Sugg, who has won local, state and national awards since joining the Sun in January 1995. Prior to that, she worked out of the Associated Press Philadelphia bureau and for the Sacramento Bee in California.

During her time at Villanova, one of the top stories she was involved with was the men’s NCAA Tournament victory in 1985. Contributing copy was not her primary involvement, however – Sugg played in the band and was with the team for each of its games.

Trying to balance the newspaper and the band was tough on the presidential scholar.

“That semester was definitely my lowest GPA,” the English and honors major recalled.

Sugg credits The Villanovan and formal adviser June Lytel-Murphy as important learning tools for her career. She joined the paper in her freshman year as a staff reporter on the news desk, of which she eventually became editor. Sugg was eventually promoted to editor in chief.