Mary Theresa Schmich (born November 29, 1953) is an American journalist who has been a columnist for the Chicago Tribune from 1992, winning the Pulitzer Prize in 2012. She wrote the comic strip Brenda Starr for the last 28 of its 60 years and she wrote the 1997 column, immediately famous, that is usually called "Wear Sunscreen".
Born in Savannah, Ga, the oldest of eight children, Schmich grew up in Hispania, attended high school in Phoenix, Arizona, and earned a B.A. from Pomona College.
After working in college admissions for three years and spending a year and a half in France, Schmich attended journalism school at Stanford. She has worked as a reporter at the Palo Alto Peninsula Times Tribune, the Orlando Sentinel and since 1985 at the Tribune, where she was a national correspondent based in Atlanta for five years. Her column started in 1992 and was interrupted for a year when she attended Harvard on a Nieman Fellowship for journalists.
From 1985 Schmich was the writer of Brenda Starr, Reporter until its final appearance in January 2011. The long-lived comic strip, set in Chicago, was created by Dale Messick for the Chicago Tribune Syndicate in 1940. Messick continued to the early 1980s; Schmich was the third and final writer, working with the second and third artists.
She has also worked as a professional barrelhouse and ragtime piano player.
About four times a year, Schmich and fellow Tribune metro columnist Eric Zorn write a week of columns that consist of a back-and-forth exchange of letters. Each December, Schmich and Zorn host the "Songs of Good Cheer" holiday caroling parties at the Old Town School of Folk Music to raise money for the Tribune Holiday Fund charities.
Schmich won the annual Pulitzer Prize for Commentary, recognizing 2011 work with the Tribune, citing "her wide range of down-to-earth columns that reflect the character and capture the culture of her famed city."
Schmich's June 1, 1997 column began with the injunction to wear sunscreen, and continued with discursive advice for living without regret. In her introduction to the column, she described it as the commencement address she would give if she were asked to give one. The column was circulated around the Internet, with an erroneous claim that it was a commencement address by Kurt Vonnegut, usually at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the misattribution became a news item when Vonnegut was contacted by reporters to comment. He told The New York Times, "What she wrote was funny, wise and charming, so I would have been proud had the words been mine."
In 1998, Schmich published the column as a book, Wear Sunscreen. In 1999, Baz Luhrmann released a song called "Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)" in which this column is read word for word as written by Schmich, who gave permission and receives royalties. This song was a number one hit in several countries.
- Wear Sunscreen (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 1998) ISBN 978-0-8362-5528-7. 54 pages
- Even the Terrible Things Seem Beautiful to Me Now: the best of Mary Schmich (Chicago: Midway, 2013) ISBN 978-1-57284-145-1. – 415-page collection of "ten Pulitzer-winning columns along with 154 others"