Sari Horwitz is a Pulitzer-Prize winning Washington Post reporter. She shared the 2002 Pulitzer for investigative reporting for her examination of the deaths of children in the D.C. foster care system, co-wrote an investigation of D.C. police shootings that won the 1999 Pulitzer for public service, and was a member of the team that won the 2008 Pulitzer for breaking news reporting for the shooting rampage at Virginia Tech. She is the co-author of two books, “Sniper: Inside the Hunt for the Killers Who Terrorized the Nation” and “Finding Chandra: A True Washington Murder Mystery.”
How long did you live here? How often do you return to Tucson? Do you still have family and friends here?
I’m a native Tucsonan, born at St. Mary’s Hospital. I lived in Tucson until 1975 when I left for Bryn Mawr College outside of Philadelphia. I try to get back to my hometown as often as I can, usually about a half-dozen times a year to see my mother, Zella Horwitz. In March, I spoke at the Tucson Festival of Books. My father, the late William Honor Horwitz, owned Crescent Jewelers, which opened in the late 1940s and used to be on Congress Street downtown and in the El Con Mall. One of my sisters, Heidi Horwitz, also lives in Tucson, as do many of my cousins and good friends. (My other sister, Wendy, lives with her family in Denver.)
What was your favorite thing about Tucson?
Everything. The smell of the Sonoran desert after it rains. The sunrise over Sonoita. The sunset over Gates Pass. Mi Nidito. Horseback riding near Saguaro National Park. The Santa Catalina Mountains. The Seven Falls trail in Sabino Canyon. The big Arizona sky. Green corn tamales from Lerua’s, tortillas from Anita’s. A margarita at the outside bar of the beautiful Hacienda del Sol.
What did you learn or experience in Tucson that has most affected you in your present life?
Going to Tucson High, a big diverse, public high school with kids from every walk of life was one of the most formative and positive experiences in my life. The speech coach of the National Forensics League team, Jane Nott, taught me invaluable lessons about public speaking — and life. I was humbled and honored to be inducted into the Tucson High Badger Hall of Fame a few years ago. The Tucson YMCA Model Legislature, which allowed teenagers from all over Arizona to run the state capitol in Phoenix for several days each year, was also a tremendous program that taught me about politics, leadership and the importance of compromise.
Have you taken something concrete from Tucson that reminds you of your life here?
I’ve filled my home in Washington with many artifacts from Tucson, a Katchina doll here, an equipale chair and piece of Acoma pottery there, Talavera everywhere. But for me, Tucson is more of a feeling, a huge part of my heart that I carry with me always.
What big changes have occurred in your life since you left Tucson?
I left Tucson when I was 17. After graduating from Bryn Mawr, I moved to Washington, D.C., where I began my journalism career at Congressional Quarterly. After three years in D.C., I studied at Oxford University on a generous Tucson Rotary Club scholarship and earned a degree in politics, philosophy and economics. In 1984, I began writing for The Washington Post and have worked there as a reporter for 27 years. I married Bill Schultz, who was a Washington public interest attorney, the deputy commissioner of the FDA and the deputy assistant attorney general of the civil division of the Justice Department under President Clinton and is now the acting general counsel of the Department of Health and Human Services. We have a 20-year-old daughter, Rachael Schultz, who is a junior in college.
How were you involved in the Tucson Jewish community?
My family has long been affiliated with Temple Emanu-El, where I had my Bat Mitzvah and was confirmed by Rabbi Joe Weizenbaum. My uncle, the late Arthur Grunewald, once served as the synagogue’s president. My aunt, Abbey Grunewald, was also an active member of the Jewish community. As a teenager, I was very involved in Temple Emanu-El’s youth group, run by a terrific Tucson teacher and friend, Mitch Dorson.
Would you return to Tucson to live if you had the opportunity?
I will always return to Tucson, many times a year, for the rest of my life. For now, my work is in Washington, but someday I dream of spending at least a month or two a year back in the Old Pueblo.
What has most surprised/delighted you about Tucson’s growth since you left town?
Since I left Tucson, there is a much more active and involved Jewish community, with a wonderful JCC, a Jewish day school and more choices of congregations. I also love how there is more of a thriving music and theater scene in Tucson, along with new and fun restaurants. But it saddens me to see all the malls and sprawling development that have sprung up where once there was only beautiful desert.
What would you most like to see change in Tucson if you were in charge?
No place is perfect, but I mostly hope that Tucson — and its spirit of community — stays just the way it is. I was so proud of the way Tucsonans came together as a community in the aftermath of the Jan. 8 tragedy.
What’s the best thing about where you live now?
My family, my friends and The Washington Post. But it’s no Tucson.
To read the editorial Horwitz wrote for The Washington Post after the Jan. 8 tragedy in Tucson, go to www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/11/AR2011021106638.html
For more”Wandering Jews” profiles, see Special Sections – High Holidays