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New York Times Sportswriter Visits SUNY Purchase

HARRISON, N.Y. - Pulitzer Prize-nominated reporter Alan Schwarz made his way through SUNY Purchase for a special visit with journalism students to discuss his career and provide insight on the industry.

Some of Schwarz's most notable Pulitzer Prize-nominated work stems from his reporting of the effects of football concussions that ultimately influenced National Football League reform.

Schwarz started his career covering baseball, but said his "math geek" background paid dividends, as he was a member of his high school math team and ultimately graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a math degree.

Though he said he never participated in any journalism or writing courses, Schwarz said his self-taught journalistic skills were what combined with his math skills to build a perfect storm for his work.

"You'll find that you make your own way in this business," Schwarz said. "No matter what you're taught in the first place, you'll make your own code of conduct."

At his visit, the writer spoke to Purchase College's journalism students about the timeline of his life and writing career.

"I knew it was something that was going to change my life," Schwarz said in regards to his research of concussion damage.

Schwarz's research helped reveal the extensive damage sustained by football players who were diagnosed with concussions and suggested that they often returned to action too quickly. Players' premature returns to the game led to signs of dementia and depression, Schwarz said.

Though the N.F.L. had denied the connections between concussions and these symptoms, Schwarz's work influenced a congressional hearing in 2009, ultimately leading to greater precautions taken by the league.

Additional reporting by Christie Rotondo of The Brick, Purchase's student-run online news site.

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