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News > Featured Mentor Stories > Alumni Authors on Campus: A True Mentorship Story

Alumni Authors on Campus: A True Mentorship Story

Philip Eil '03 and Brad Balukjian '98 visit campus in April 2024
Philip Eil '03 and Brad Balukjian '98 visit campus in April 2024

Wheeler alumni and non-fiction authors Philip Eil '03 and Brad Balukjian '98 were on campus this past April, taking time out of their recent book tours to talk to the upper school about their writing careers and more. Both were interviewed during morning assembly by members of The Spoke, Wheeler’s online student newspaper; joined Bob Koppel’s Aerie enrichment elective on Creative Writing; and reconnected with some of their own Wheeler mentors and teachers.

Philip Eil’s debut book, Prescription for Pain: How A Once Promising Doctor Became the “Pill Mill Killer,” was released in April from Steerforth Press. It is a true crime story of the American opioid epidemic, chronicling Dr. Paul Volkman, who is serving four consecutive life terms in federal prison for prescription drug dealing. The Columbus Dispatch called it a “riveting true-crime page-turner.”

Phil is a freelance journalist who contributes regularly to VICE, the Atlantic, Men’s Health, The Nation, Boston Magazine, and Huffington Post, among other outlets. His mentorship advice to students included the concept that there are a lot of paths to and definitions of success, offering, “Listen to what excites you…I think Brad and I are both here to talk about careers that are unpredictable and somewhat tenuous, but that are deeply meaningful and fulfilling. And based on some of the feedback I’ve gotten in my career – particularly to the writing I’ve done about mental health – this work has the chance to mean something to other people as well.” 

Brad Balukjian’s first book, The Wax Pack: On the Open Road in Search of Baseball’s Afterlife, hit #7 on the LA Times bestseller list and was named one of NPR’s Best Books of 2020. His recently published second book, The Six Pack: On the Road in Search of WrestleMania, unveils the humanity of those who played the larger than life personas of the World Wrestling Federation of the 1980s, including legends such as the Iron Sheik, Hulk Hogan, Tito Santana and more. 

When Brad is not crossing the country to interview the heroes of his youth, he is a Professor of Natural History and Sustainability at Merritt College in Oakland, California, with a PhD in Environmental Science, Policy and Management. He credits his Wheeler teachers for nurturing his interests, sharing, “Wheeler gave me the gift of not only accepting but stoking my intellectual curiosity. I arrived a gangly, awkward, and timid boy and left a confident, gangly proto-man ready for college. As I said in my remarks, my teachers (Marcie Johnsen, Clare St Onge, Bob Schmidt, Elaine Reed, Dan Moore, Kam Hufstadter, Christine Perkins, and on and on) are my heroes. It was an honor to come back to speak and to pass on a few tidbits to the current students…In my brief time with the (them), I saw a future, and that future is bright.”

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