Lisa D’Annucci Cregan ’79

          Scientist/freelance writer is “a triumph of the liberal arts”

How did Lisa D’Annucci Cregan ’79 morph from biology major to nationally read freelance feature writer? “It’s one of those ‘you never know’ stories,” she says. “[My husband] says my career path is a triumph of the liberal arts.”  

In an era of declining newspaper, magazine and book readerships, Cregan’s career is flourishing. She’s an authoritative voice on interior design, food and gardens. In the past 10 years, her byline has appeared in House Beautiful, The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, Traditional Design, Coastal Living and Garden Design, to name a few. And this spring will see the release of her first book, The Little Book of Blue—the first of three she’s been contracted to write over the next two years.

From the history of contraceptives to Pupperonis

Cregan cut her writer’s teeth in New York City. She says her science background helped her secure a job at a medical-advertising agency. But the work was a far cry from writing lab reports.  “I was asked to write things like a brochure about the history of contraceptives—no lie,” she wryly remembers.

When her fiancé, former Dickinson trustee John Cregan ‘79, was transferred to Chicago, Cregan moved into advertising, penning memorable spots for household-name brands such as Head & Shoulders, Kibbles & Bits, Snausages and Pupperonis.

“Presenting cartoon storyboards, singing the jingles, casting the dogs—we never stopped laughing,” she recalls. “But it was crazy hours, long lunches, travel—not a great fit with motherhood.”

So, the mother of three (Maura, now 26; Courtney, now 23; and Mac, now 20) took a break from television writing.  But a new career was brewing.

Domestic-design goddess

Because of her keen eye for design—not to mention the fact that she moved to new cities and homes several times over the years—Cregan became knowledgeable about the tools used to make a house a home, such as wallpaper, fabric, focal pieces and paint. She also had befriended several decorators along the way. So, when her youngest child was well in school and she learned about a friend’s recently completed renovation project, Cregan pitched a home-renovation story to House Beautiful. It made the cover, and a new career was launched.

Today, Cregan writes lively profiles of industry luminaries, describes grand design projects, offers tips to home chefs and decorators and shares engaging anecdotes from her trés stylish—and occasionally humorously unstylish—daily life, creating articles that appeal to novices and experts alike.

As she puts finishing touches on her second book, Cregan admits that she’s seen sweeping changes in the publishing industry. Still, in the face of ever-evolving technology, an increasingly competitive publishing market and shifting reader demands, she thrives.

“I really do believe in the whole liberal-arts notion that learning how to learn is more important than what you learn,” she says. “For me, Dickinson’s insistence that even science majors learn to express themselves coherently paid big dividends.”

Published September 1, 2010