Inside The Lawrentian with Editor Sean Ramsden
Founded in 1906 as the Lawrenceville Alumni Bulletin and renamed in 1937, The Lawrentian, Lawrenceville’s Alumni Magazine, is one of the oldest, continuously published alumni publications in the country.
Founded in 1906 as the Lawrenceville Alumni Bulletin and renamed in 1937, The Lawrentian, Lawrenceville’s Alumni Magazine, is one of the oldest, continuously published alumni publications in the country. The person who runs the behind the scenes of the 80-page magazine is Sean Ramsden, The Lawrentian’s current Editor. As he approaches his six year anniversary with the magazine in June 2021, Ramsden warrants great recognition for his work in making the magazine what it is today.
The Lawrentian typically consists of multiple alumni and student features, Q&A’s with faculty and students, class notes, news stories, and “three things Ramsden learned about Lawrenceville” in putting together a particular issue.
Ramsden previously worked for the alumni magazine at Rider University, a school situated just down the road from Lawrenceville. His position at Rider involved both curating the school’s alumni magazine as well as several other smaller tasks. He used to kid around, saying, “All this other stuff is great, but the best part of the job is doing the magazine, so if I could just do the magazine portion for a great school it would be incredible.” Hence, after being contacted by a headhunter, Ramsden eagerly accepted the offer to become The Lawrentian’s Editor and readied himself to take part in the publication.
Just as he had hoped, Ramsden’s role as Editor involves conceiving, creating, and planning all of the content in the magazine. Ultimately, he executes a considerable amount from cover-to-cover solo, essentially acting as the sole member of the “editorial board.” That being said, Ramsden claims he could never run The Lawrentian completely independently. He reports to the Director of Communications, Jessica Welsh, or to those in the Alumni and Development Office, such as Mary Barnes or John Gore, if he needs to bounce ideas off of someone. Ramsden also credits his consistent, up-to-date knowledge of Lawrenceville’s fast-paced student life to both the communications office and to Lisa Gillard. “If anyone is embedded in Lawrenceville, it is [Gillard]. She knows everything a week before it happens,” Ramsden added, “If she were to retire, then I’m in trouble. She’s an incredible asset to me.”
Ramsden believes the mission of The Lawrentian is to serve the reader first and the institution second. “It is not an admissions piece. We don’t do it with the intention of selling the School because we don’t need to,” he said. The 14,000 readers of The Lawrentian are either alumni or friends and family of those who attended Lawrenceville, so the magazine reflects a candid voice. The goal of The Lawrentian is “to engage our readers, stoke their affinity for the school, and keep them updated on what the School looks like today,” Ramsden said.
Despite the challenges of working remotely this past year, Ramsden continues to source stories organically by maintaining a presence within the community. One of his favorite researching methods is to take a walk, bump into students and faculty, and ask “Hey! What’s going on that I should know about?” From this approach, Ramsden both furthers his involvement in the community and often yields the next big story to dig into. The large front-cover stories are evidently not as easy to find: “We often worry that...we will run out at some point...for the big Features stories, but that’s just not the case. They are always so many out there—we just may not be aware of them yet,” Ramsden said.
In an age where online news has become increasingly prevalent, Ramsden recognizes that The Lawrentian must maintain an online presence. The expansion of technology and online media has also allowed The Lawrentian to diversify its content and creativity in addition to broadening its global reach. For example, an illustrator from England created an incredible cover graphic depicting the Lawrenceville community in its virtual setting for the recent Summer/Fall edition. Ramsden explained, “It’s awesome being able to get creative and forage relationships with interesting illustrators and photographers from all over the world.” Given his creative license with The Lawrentian, Ramsden is able to develop an aesthetic that attracts a wide age range of readers—from 18 to 97 years old.
According to Ramsden, the best part of his job is not being able to “predict what a story will be when he first approach[es] an interview, but ultimately creating a result that winds up blowing [his] mind.” For instance, Ramsden had heard about Gary Howard ’77 from an alumnus since Howard had just been inducted into the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame. Ramsden started drawing up some questions to further understand Howard’s adventures as a sports editor and his stance on national issues in sports, such as players kneeling for the national anthem. The two ended up spending three hours on the phone talking about Howard’s life story growing up in the Bronx until present-day. At the end of the interview, Ramsden immediately knew that “this has to be the cover story for the Fall 2019 issue.”
As Lawrentians have now made it back to campus for the in-person Spring Term, Ramsden will jump straight to the drawing board to sketch the forthcoming issues. If you see him around campus, be sure to keep him updated on what you’ve been up to. You never know—your story could make the front cover of the next issue!