Honorand Citation: Gwen Ifill

Gwen Ifill

Presented by Michael Bonney ’80, Chair of the Board of Trustees

President Cable, I am honored to present one of the most important voices in American journalism, Gwen Ifill.

As a daughter of an African Methodist Episcopal minister, Gwen was often told to “Act right all the time, because someone’s always watching.” In Gwen’s case, millions are watching — and reading — regularly.

After early reporting jobs at major U.S. newspapers, Gwen moved to television news, as chief congressional and political correspondent for NBC. She is now both senior correspondent for the “PBS Newshour,” and moderator and managing editor of PBS’s “Washington Week” — and is now enjoying, as she has noted, the best of both journalistic worlds, because public broadcasting combines the depth of print journalism with the compelling immediacy of broadcast television.

We celebrate today not only the excellence Gwen has achieved in her chosen field, but also her remarkable ability to relate important information, as it emerges, to the larger global context — something our faculty do every day with our students through their research and teaching. As the Class of 2012 concludes an education whose hallmark is the most powerful kind of critical thinking, something that Gwen once said about her calling will resonate with them: “Telling people what happens is information. Explaining why it matters, that’s journalism.” From Gwen we expect both the facts and the impacts, whether she’s reporting on the fate of a Chinese dissident, leading a reporters’ roundtable about the Tea Party, or blogging about the political rewards of supporting same-sex marriage.

Social progress has rendered unremarkable the presence of African American journalists on television, yet Gwen would likely be the last one to tell you that we have achieved a truly post-racial America. But she will tell you that in her many interviews with black leaders — and I quote — “their common thread of accomplishment was not race per se, but it was about how they had to decide for themselves who they would be.” On a day when our graduates have a sharp focus on that same decision, here is someone whose choice in the matter has truly benefited us all.

I present Gwen Ifill for the degree of Doctor of Letters.

Conferral by Interim President Nancy Cable

Gwen Ifill, for more than three decades you have been a leader in helping us all truly understand the most significant developments of the day, through reporting that in its depth, balance and integrity fulfills the highest aspirations of journalism. Therefore, by the authority vested in me by the Board of Trustees, I hereby confer upon you the degree of Doctor of Letters, with all the rights, privileges, and responsibilities which here and everywhere pertain to this degree.