Overlooking the fact that Ted Geisel is the sort of chap to give himself the title of “doctor,” one has to admit that few people have ever made such an impression on the mental landscapes of children and adults alike. Geisel, who labored under the pen name Dr. Seuss, was one of the world's most celebrated children's authors. Before his death, he sold more than 600 million copies, while his work had been translated into more than 20 languages. Incredibly original, his work is best known for its vivid storytelling—with its whimsical imagery, fanciful phrasing, and meanings that cleverly lie just below the surface of reality.
As Dr. Seuss, Geisel wrote and illustrated more than 60 books in total. But Geisel also worked as a political cartoonist and animator for the U.S. Army during WWII, among other jobs. In terms of industry recognition, his prolific output earned Geisel a Pulitzer Prize, three Academy Awards, two Emmys, and two Peabody Awards.
It was at Dartmouth College that Geisel discovered the powerful combination of words and pictures, he explained in a 1975 interview with the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine. "I began to get it through my skull that words and pictures were Yin and Yang. I began thinking that words and pictures, married, might possibly produce a progeny more interesting than either parent."
Geisel began attending Dartmouth in the early 1920's, though few could have suspected the immense fame that awaited him as a creative force. At the school, Geisel joined two organizations: the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity and the humor magazine The Dartmouth Jack-O-Lantern, eventually rising to the rank of editor-in-chief of the latter.
During his senior year, the young man was caught drinking alcohol, which was illegal under Prohibition laws. As a result, he was told to resign from all extracurricular activities at Dartmouth, including the college humor magazine. In order to continue work on The Jack-O-Lantern without the administration's knowledge, Geisel began signing his work for the first time with the pen name "Seuss." In 1925 Geisel, just beginning to embrace his creative alter ego, graduated from Dartmouth with a GPA of 2.4.
Despite this unimpressive academic record, Geisel's presence is undoubtedly part of the Dartmouth campus today. For instance, more than 90% of incoming first-year students participate in traditional pre-matriculation runs into the New Hampshire wilderness that ends with a big breakfast of green eggs. But on a slightly grander scale, the Ivy League school announced in 2012 that they would be renaming their medical school (founded in 1797) in honor of Geisel and his wife, citing the author's longstanding generosity through donations of his estate to Dartmouth.
"Ted Geisel lived out the Dartmouth ethos of thinking differently and creatively to illuminate the world's challenges and the opportunities for understanding and surmounting them," explained Dartmouth President Jim Yong Kim.
And perhaps just as important, in 1956, the author's alma mater awarded him with an honorary doctorate, finally legitimizing the title he gave himself with his famous pseudonym.