Gwen Ifill Named Commencement Speaker at Holy Names University

News Release

Media contact:
Lesley Sims, Holy Names University, 510-436-1405 or sims@hnu.edu

Gwen Ifill Named Commencement Speaker
at Holy Names University

OAKLAND, California; April, 25, 2012 – Gwen Ifill, moderator and managing editor of Washington Week and senior correspondent for PBS NewsHour will deliver the commencement address to the graduates of Holy Names University (HNU) on May 12, 2012.  Her journalism career includes assignments at the Boston Herald-American, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and NBC News, where she was a colleague of Tom Brokaw and Tim Russert.

The daughter of an impoverished minister, Ms. Ifill had a strong religious upbringing.  Her parents were both immigrants: her father from Panama and her mother from Barbados.  She is one of six children and grew up in New York.

Ms. Ifill went to Simmons College in Boston where she majored in communications, and, through an internship, got her first hands-on experience as a journalist.  After graduating in 1977, Ifill went to work for the Boston Herald-American as a reporter.  Her interest in politics started with her position at Baltimore’s Evening Sun where she had her first opportunity in front of the cameras.  She later joined The Washington Post and then The New York Times.  Ms. Ifill switched to television reporting by joining NBC News in 1994 as a congressional correspondent.

PBS was impressed with Ms. Ifill’s analytical skills and journalistic savvy and in 1999 hired her for two news programs:  NewsHour with Jim Lehrer and Washington Week.  Each week on Washington Week, Gwen leads a robust roundtable discussion with award-winning journalists who provide reporting and analysis of the major stories emanating from the nation’s capital.  Now in its 42nd year on the air, Washington Week is the longest-running, prime-time news and public affairs program on television.

Ifill has covered six Presidential campaigns and moderated two vice presidential debates — in 2004 the debate between Republican Dick Cheney and Democrat John Edwards and in 2008 the debate between Democratic Senator Joe Biden and Republican Governor Sarah Palin.  She is also the author of the best-selling book – The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama (Doubleday, 2009).

Her work as a journalist has been honored by the Radio and Television News Directors Association, Harvard’s Joan Shorenstein Center, Ebony Magazine and Washington Week received the Peabody award.  Ifill currently serves on the boards of the News Literacy Project, the Committee to Protect Journalists, and is a fellow with the American Academy of Sciences.

Ms. Ifill’s inspirational journey and background resonates strongly with the HNU community.  Woven into its 144-year legacy, the University has developed critical thinkers and transformational leaders, has served as an exemplar for promoting cultural competency and has established itself as a resource for study and impact on urban issues, particularly in Oakland.

HNU President William J. Hynes, Ph.D., said, “We’re extremely fortunate that Gwen Ifill will speak to Holy Names University’s 2012 graduating class. As our graduates decide on a future after HNU, it is an honor to have a professional of Ms. Ifill’s stature to be the role model for what may lie ahead.  Her distinguished career and numerous journalism achievements provide a benchmark for attaining excellence in a chosen field. Ms. Ifill is an outstanding example to young people for what they too can achieve.”

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HNU is located at 3500 Mountain Boulevard, off Highway 13, in the Oakland Hills.  Founded in 1868 on the banks of Lake Merritt near downtown Oakland, the university moved to its present campus 55 years ago. HNU offers 19 bachelor’s degrees, five degree completion programs for adults, eight master’s degrees and various certificates and credentials.  HNU has been transforming people and liberating the spirit for nearly a century and a half.

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