The son of a longshoreman, author George R.R. Martin was born in 1948 and raised in a federal housing project in New Jersey. To help escape the misery of his daily life, he began writing at an early age, but for many years he struggled to make a living from his fantastic narratives. However, by 1977, he'd found a publisher for his first science fiction novel. Next, he published a few more books, to lesser and lesser fanfare, and proceeded to reinvent himself as a script writer and TV producer in Hollywood – but eventually these efforts became untenable.

In 1996, Martin's life changed when his novel A Game of Thrones was published, which became the first book in a series called A Song of Ice and Fire. The books, which Martin helped turn into the hit HBO show “A Game of Thrones," have sold more than 90 million copies worldwide as of August 2019. Once described by Time magazine as "the American Tolkien," Martin is now one of the few authors on the planet who can also claim to be an international celebrity.

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In the late 1960s, Martin enrolled at Northwestern University to study journalism. Although his dream was to become a professional fiction writer, he saw becoming a journalist as a way to make ends meet after school. Despite this lack of enthusiasm, his major turned out to be the best thing for his future fiction. To start, his journalism professors were always willing to castigate Martin each time he used "four adjectives, when one would do." More strikingly, the influence of his journalism assignments in college can be seen in all of his latest best-sellers, because a vital part of Martin's secret sauce is his ability to combine traditional fantasy novel elements with the kind of hard-edged, unrelenting realism that characterizes quality journalism. In other words, Martin blends the technical skills he learned at Northwestern with the otherworldly elements of his genre. Martin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism in 1970 and his Master of Science in Journalism in 1971, both from Northwestern.

Over the years, the acclaimed author has returned to his alma mater for numerous special occasions. Most recently, Northwestern rolled out the purple carpet when Martin was awarded an honorary doctorate in 2021. As part of his campus visit, he also helped celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the Medill School of Journalism, Media, and Integrated Marketing by delivering one of the convocation speeches to students graduating from the journalism school that year. Already, Martin had been inducted into the Medill School's Hall of Achievement in 2015. To celebrate such the event, the best-selling author also gave a live Q&A session in front of a sold-out audience, where he addressed his writing, his characters, his improbable career trajectory, and the impact his alma mater had on him. “I was a very introverted, shy kid who spent a lot of time reading. Studying journalism at Medill forced me to talk to strangers and helped shape my views on the world. It got me out of my shell.”