Alumni Spotlight is a new and ongoing blog series that features interviews with a variety of Darlington alumni about their careers and the impact their Darlington experience had on their lives. I am excited to share a Q&A with Elyse Moody ('03).
Elyse lives and works in New York City as a senior editor for Martha Stewart Living magazine.
Hear directly from Elyse below.
Why is Darlington important to you?
My teachers, advisers, and classmates at Darlington see the world as a bigger place, which, in turn, helped me become braver. I hadn't traveled or been outside of Georgia and Florida much before I came to Darlington. I might not have been brave enough to go to an out-of-state college, or to pursue the career I wanted, if I hadn't met so many students from around the country and the world, or if I hadn't had the encouragement from staff to try. That goes for how I was taught to think, too. In my classes, my teachers pushed me to think deeply and creatively. I use skills I learned in musical theater, art history, English, and chorus every single day.
What is your best memory from your time at Darlington?
My best memories are of my free periods, which tended to rotate since I had chorus during lunch. Sitting in The Cove during eighth period and hanging out with my friends was the best. And I loved my senior year English class, which I remember as always full of great debates. I also loved being a part of plays and musicals. The rehearsals for "Arsenic and Old Lace" and "The Pajama Game" are some of my all-time best memories. We had a blast backstage in the Zelle Black Box Theatre.
Which teacher(s) had a positive influence on your life?
So, so many, but especially Raymond Murray, David Powell, and Marisa Ortega.
How did your time at Darlington prepare you for college and the professional world?
My work load at Darlington was definitely more difficult than at college! I was more than ready to manage my schedule and work, and that left me more time to focus on extracurriculars and activities I loved. It gave me time to help lead and organize those groups, too, instead of just participating a little. Having access to so many AP classes at Darlington put me ahead and let me spend my college credits on courses I wanted to try out instead of having to take quite as many core classes.
What was your career path after graduating from Darlington?
I went to Washington & Lee University, in Lexington, Va. I worked on the student newspapers and student poetry journal there, in addition to interning for its literary journal, and majored in English and journalism (though I also took lots of theater, vocal performance, and art history classes, too). My first job was in Washington, D.C., at the McGraw-Hill Companies; I edited and wrote for a magazine group called Aviation Week. While I was in D.C., I finished a masters degree in nonfiction writing at Johns Hopkins, going to classes part time. Then, I moved to New York City to work for Elle magazine and then O, The Oprah Magazine. I work for Martha Stewart Living as a senior editor at the moment.
What do you like most about the career you have chosen?
I love learning new things every day, getting to be creative, and being surrounded by lots of insanely creative people -- artists, designers, chefs, crafters, etc. I also love making a product I can actually hold in my hands and see on the newsstand. I'm really proud of what I get to do.
What impact has Darlington had on your career success?
All the creative classes and activities I took part in at Darlington helped make me a good collaborator and communicator. Those skills are definitely a huge part of my career, since I work with a wide variety of people. I also have felt empowered to go after new jobs in new areas and to grow my responsibilities along the way, and I owe that confidence to my Darlington experience.
You are working in journalism. Can you tell me a little more about your role?
I help produce home features for Martha Stewart Living -- so that's decorating, entertaining, organization, cleaning... It's my dream job. (Those of you who know me, or my mom, will know how obsessed we are with cleaning and decorating.) I am involved from the planning process through to the photo shoots, and then I am in charge of either editing or writing the story that goes along with it.
What is your greatest career accomplishment?
I'm really proud to have worked for two of the most groundbreaking women in business: Oprah and Martha Stewart. They have both used their natural skills to become incredibly successful. It's an inspiring reminder to do things your own way.
Darlington’s Motto is “Wisdom more than Knowledge, Service beyond Self, and Honor above Everything.” What ways have you applied the motto to your life?
The motto is a good reminder to listen carefully and be fair. Whether you want to work in publishing or politics or anything, that's perhaps the key to doing well and being happy for the long run.
What do you hope for the future of Darlington and its students?
I hope the school continues to push students to experiment, express themselves, and learn much more than just what's required, especially in terms of the fine arts. High school is when you have time to play and try things out. That should be just as important as learning algebra -- although Mr. Paxton managed to make algebra interesting even to me.