Category: Alumni Stories, Hoya Highlight

Title:Hoya Highlight: Jerry Pallotta (B’75, Parent’07,’09)

Jerry Pallotta


Time on the Hilltop

What was your major at Georgetown?

I was a management major in the McDonough School of Business.

What was your favorite class or who was your favorite professor at Georgetown?

Othmar Winkler, a statistics professor who grew up in Germany during World War II, was one of my favorites. He was a great professor who taught us lots of tricks with statistics. My other favorite was Father Juan Cortez, S.J. He was a psychology professor from Spain, and his class was extremely popular and incredibly interesting.

What is your favorite Georgetown memory?

I met my wife at Georgetown, and now I have four children and eight grandchildren. Two of my kids went to Georgetown, Classes of 2007 and 2009. My dad also went to Georgetown, Class of 1951. So my family has lots of Georgetown connections, and sharing stories of our good times from the Hilltop is always fun.

What advice would you give your younger self (or current Georgetown students)?

Don’t be intimidated, and have faith in yourself that you belong here. I was intimidated, and I probably could have done better if I had had more confidence.

How has Georgetown shaped you?

By making me a lifelong learner. My peers inspired me to think bigger than I might have had I not gone to Georgetown. I was incredibly inspired by my classmates.

Career Information and Reflections

What is the best career advice you have ever received?

“There are some people who make it happen, some people who watch it happen, and some people who didn’t know it happened.” I always wanted to be someone who made it happen.

What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done professionally?

Becoming a public speaker. I was very nervous at first. Even though my speaking engagements are primarily with kindergarten and elementary school-aged children, it’s still nerve wracking to speak in front of a large crowd. Now, I’ve done more than 18,000 talks, and have become much more comfortable with public speaking.

What are the big trends in your industry you’re seeing now?

In the publishing industry overall, e-books are really big. But e-books are failing in children’s literature, with less than 3% of all e-books being for children. The lack of independent bookstores is a trend too, one that I’m sad to see happening. Some trends I am glad of are being able to design books in incredible color, and being able to print on demand, meaning you can print in smaller quantities instead of really big batches.

How did you decide to be a children’s book author?

I worked in an insurance company for 15 years, so I didn’t start out wanting to be an author. I would read to my children every night, and eventually I started writing my own stories for them. My big break came when I started writing nonfiction books in 1987, which coincided with the 1990’s trends in children’s literature across the country: nonfiction became more popular than fairy tales, and children’s education books went from textbooks to books with a more engaging writing style. I came in at the right time and was able to be in on the trend of beautifully colored books that really engaged young readers.

What has been the most rewarding moment of your career?

Selling millions of books. When I started out, I didn’t have the confidence that anyone would actually buy my books. Then, I started getting calls and letters from parents saying things like “My son would never read until he read one of your books, and now I can’t get him to stop.” Now, I have 100 titles in print and have sold 25 million books—it’s amazing! I still love hearing from my readers—it’s incredibly thrilling and rewarding every time.

A Day in the Life

What is your writing process?

All the book ideas are in my head, and I’m a scrap writer, so I write everywhere—truly! I’ll write on menus, notebooks, bills, etc. It’s easy for me to do this because I get my book ideas from my daily life, and ideas are always flowing.

What is one part of your daily routine you couldn’t live without?

During the pandemic, it’s been very strange not to sign books in person. I have usually signed 300 books every day for the past 30 years. Now, I can’t wait to get back to signing books!

What are your words to live by?

“Work hard and be nice to people.”