Terri Laxton Brooks was born in Reedsburg, Wisconsin, a small town surrounded by cornfields. Her early efforts at reporting were in high school, where, with her typing teacher’s permission, she created a student newspaper and cajoled friends into distribution.
The first in her family to go to college, she attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison with money from tips she saved from waitressing jobs—first, at the age of thirteen, in the Reedsburg Coffee Shop; and, in college during summer and winter vacations in the nearby village of Rock Springs (population today: 362). There, at a dusty crossroads, the Behnke family owned and ran a popular family restaurant and bar that drew farmers and townsfolk, as well as a sprinkle of tourists. As they were closing each night, the Behnkes gave food to Terri to take home to her poor and struggling family.
During those years of waitressing, Terri wrote profiles of the local country customers to whom she served deep-fried fish from nearby streams, beef slaughtered up the road, and hand-cut fries. After college, she shocked her mother by leaving Wisconsin for Illinois, where she had a job waiting for her at the Chicago Tribune. At the newspaper, she fought for the right to be a national newsroom reporter--positions that women were seldom allowed. She was on the team that won a Pulitzer Prize in Investigative Reporting for its coverage of vote fraud. Despite her advocacy for equal rights for women reporters, little changed and Terri ultimately quit because of sexual harassment and discrimination.
Her marriage to her childhood sweetheart was drifting into divorce when she left Chicago and moved to New York City. From her two-room garden apartment on West 12th Street in Greenwich Village, she wrote and published her first two nonfiction books. Most of her early work was published under the name Terri Schultz.
When New York University invited Terri to teach in the Department of Journalism, she planned to stay one semester but stayed 18 years, remarried, gave birth to her son, received tenure and became Department Chair. During that time she also received a Masters’ degree from St. John’s College Great Books program. Terri was valedictorian speaker at her graduation commencement, where she compared the reporting of Herodotus and Thucydides with modern journalism.
After nearly two decades at her beloved NYU, Terri accepted the position of Dean of the School of Communications at Penn State in Happy Valley. Under Terri’s leadership the struggling young school, part of the College of Arts & Sciences, saw a significant increase in fundraising, student enrollment, faculty diversity, national recognition, and quality of faculty research. With its growth and success it became, before she left, a full-fledged College of its own in the university.
She received a Fulbright to study the press in India, and later served for six years on the Fulbright Board.
Terri spent her Junior Year Abroad at the Université d’Aix-en-Provence. She still speaks French with an accent Provençal.
Of all Terri’s accomplishments, her most treasured is her son.