Gwendolyn Michele Bounds 93

Distinguished Young Alumni Award

Gwendolyn Michele Bounds ’93

If Wendy Bounds ’93 is sitting on the edge of her seat tonight, it may not be from the excitement of receiving the Distinguished Young Alumni Award. More likely it is because she just biked 275 miles in three days to raise money to fight AIDS. She did it for a friend, John Guinan, who had done the fundraising ride for 10 years until his cancer progressed to the point he couldn’t do it anymore. Wendy rode for him this year, keeping alive his tradition, the way Guinan kept alive his father’s store, “the little chapel on the river” that Wendy wrote about in her book published in 2005.

Wendy lived in an apartment building next to the World Trade Center, a short walk to The Wall Street Journal where she was a reporter, until 9/11 left her homeless. While looking for a place to live a safe distance away from New York, she was dropped off at Guinan’s Store, a deli with a five-stool bar tacked onto the back overlooking the Hudson River, to wait for a train back to the city. She struck up a conversation with Guinan’s father, who had bought the store decades before, and learned how, when he got too sick to work it every day, his son got up at 4 every morning to open the store so commuters on the early train could have hot coffee and a newspaper for their ride to work. Then his son went to his full-time job and stopped back at the end of the day to close the store for the night.

The conversation inspired Wendy to help out at the bar herself, and led to her book about finding home again in the midst of so much upheaval.

Before writing the book, Wendy was a scripted Type A personality—at Carolina, missing the deadline to file for editor-in-chief of The Daily Tar Heel, along with Dacia Toll ’94, because she was perfecting the layout of her campaign petitions. She and Dacia launched a write-in campaign, going door-to-door to convince students to write in “Gwendolyn Michele Bounds and Dacia Merle Toll” on the ballots. They didn’t win, but they didn’t come in last, either.

Wendy was a serious journalist from her early days at UNC. As editor-in-chief of The UNC Journalist, the magazine of the journalism school, she secured an interview with Al Neuharth, CEO of the Gannett syndicate, impressing him with her skills. As soon as she graduated, The Wall Street Journal snapped her up. “That doesn’t happen,” Dacia said. “The Wall Street Journal doesn’t hire kids out of college.”

Her editors at the Journal recognized her ability to tell a story—any story. Her editor, Larry Rout, said she has the best antennae for a great story of any reporter he’s ever met. As the Journal’s small-business reporter, Wendy once wrote about two women who created a very successful business —  selling thongs —  that developed cachet among celebrities. The story was about how the entrepreneurs created a business largely out of buzz. Rout said it was the only time he’s ever seen a story about thongs on the front page of The Wall Street Journal.

After taking time off to write her book, Wendy returned to the Journal but took herself off her fast rise on the managerial track. She is a columnist for the paper now and recently launched its small-business blog. She reports as a weekly financial correspondent for CNBC and regularly contributes to “Good Morning America.” She also writes do-it-yourself pieces on home improvement projects she undertakes.

Larry Rout says, “She’s not only a great reporter, she can put up drywall and install a whole new floor for you.”

And even though her book has gone into a second printing and is selling well, she still shows up every once in a while at Guinan’s when she’s needed for the early morning shift. She counts her hours behind the counter listening to commuter’s tales as among her happiest.

“By being there,” Wendy says, “and by ultimately capturing this spot in the pages of my book, I was able to aid the preservation of something that matters to so many other people. That’s what I’d look back on, if these were my final days, and claim as my proudest moments.”

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