Famously known as the "Town Crier" of the radio airwaves, Alexander Woollcott, Class of 1909, was blessed with a gift for words. Author, critic and actor, he earned a national reputation as a raconteur and man-about-town. His career began at The New York Times, where in 1914 he became drama critic. His frank and outspoken criticism of some plays caused him to be barred from all the Shubert-controlled theaters. After a two-year stint in the Army reporting for The Stars and Stripes, Woollcott returned to the Times and subsequently worked for the New York Herald and then the New York World. For a while he was a regular contributor to The New Yorker, writing dramatic criticism and for a page called “Shouts and Murmurs.”
A stout man, he was the self-appointed leader of the Algonquin Round Table, a distinguished group of New Yorkers who, in the 1920s, met for lunch each day at the Algonquin Hotel.Woollcott’s acting debut came with the Hamilton Charlatans, of which he was a founder; however, his first and only starring role came in the 1940 production of The Man Who Came to Dinner, a play in which the principal character is generally known to be a caricature of himself.
A trustee of the College from 1935-42, he was instrumental in getting the Hamilton Choir to undertake its first trip away from campus, and for many years he sponsored its concerts in theatres in New York City. After his death in 1943, columnist Walter Lippman commented, “Woollcott had a sharp taste. He had a piercing eye for sham. He had an acid tongue. But he had gusto, he really liked what he praised, and he cared much more for the men and women he liked than he worried about those he did not like.”
In 2000 Hamilton’s Theta Delta Chi fraternity house was rededicated as a student residence hall in honor of its former member.