Macy_FactoryManRoanoke-based author and journalist Beth Macy loves her job.

“I love storytelling and finding meaning out of disparate anecdotes and stories and even academic studies,” said the nationally published writer and Harvard Nieman Fellow. “You learn what you really think in the process of writing it all out — by turning your facts and conversations into a story.”

Macy has delivered an earnest message about the importance of honest, thought-provoking reporting to students and fellow writers in a variety of venues, including a South-African newsroom, numerous journalism organizations, Harvard University, and Penn State University. On May 18, Mary Baldwin University will welcome her as its Commencement keynote speaker.

“I’m a first-generation college student and graduate, and I love that many of your students come from similar backgrounds to mine,” said Macy, who earned her bachelor’s degree at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. “I think I would have thrived at a women’s college, at a place like Mary Baldwin.”

Her first national article — published in Seventeen magazine when she was still an undergrad — grew out of the “obligatory first-person essay” she wrote for a feature-writing course. In addition to a long career at The Roanoke Times, Macy has also written pieces for Parade, O, Garden and Gun, The Christian Science Monitor, and several other national publications.

A print journalist for more than 25 years, the publication of Macy’s first full-length book, Factory Man, in July 2014 marks the start of her transition from reporter to author. She cites the 412-page volume as her biggest accomplishment to date.

“It was the largest task I’ve ever undertaken,” Macy said about Factory Man, which chronicles the Vaughan-Bassett Furniture Company in rural Galax. and its struggle to remain locally owned and operated amidst pressure from huge overseas competitors.

“Writing this book required using all the skills I learned during a quarter-century in news writing, braiding together everything from memoir and narrative writing to investigative reporting and analysis,” she added.

Senior class president Holly Johnston ’14 was introduced to Macy’s work as a high school student, and she was intrigued by Macy’s journalistic voice.

“She is a master of the craft,” Johnston said. “I know her speech will serve not only as a way to mark the end of our four years here, but will also provide one last source of inspiration.”

Read more about Macy at

Commencement will be held at 10 a.m. May 18 on Page Terrace at Mary Baldwin University (10:30 a.m. at Expoland in Fishersville in the event of inclement weather). If the ceremony takes place on campus, it will be streamed online at