Emmy-winning journalist and television host Barbara Walters will be the speaker at this year’s Class Day, according to an email sent to the senior class early Monday morning.
“We are absolutely thrilled and thankful to Ms. Walters for agreeing to join us for Class Day,” Senior Class Council heads Kevin Adkisson ’12 and Ben Schenkel ’12 wrote in the email. “She has arguably interviewed more statesmen and stars than any journalist in history. The ABC News correspondent is so well-known that she is listed in the American Heritage Dictionary.”
The email goes on to list Walters’ many accomplishments — from her time as the first female anchor of The Today Show in the 1970s, to her numerous interviews with illustrious statesmen, to her time as co-host and creator of “The View.” Walters is currently a contributor to ABC World News, the station’s flagship news program.
Previous class day speakers have included actor Tom Hanks, former President Bill Clinton LAW ’73, author Christopher Buckley ’75, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and journalists Fareed Zakaria ’86 and Anderson Cooper ’89. Walters is the first female class day speaker since Eleanor Holmes Norton GRD ’63 LAW ’64 addressed the class of 2005.
Walters delivered one other commencement speech at her alma mater, Sarah Lawrence College, in 2001, and told stories from her many high profile interviews.
Read the email in full below:
On behalf of the Class of 2012, we are pleased and honored to announce that the 2012 Class Day Speaker will be Barbara Walters.
Since her network debut on “The Today Show,” where she progressed from writer to the program’s first female co-host, Ms. Walters has received acclaim for her contributions in television journalism. She has arguably interviewed more statesmen and stars than any journalist in history. The ABC News correspondent is so well-known that she is listed in the American Heritage Dictionary.
Ms. Walters joined ABC News in 1976 as the first woman to co-anchor the network news. She also is the creator, executive producer, and co-host of “The View,” recipient of the 2003 Daytime Emmy® Award for “Outstanding Talk Show.” In 2004, after 25 years as co-host and chief correspondent of ABC News’ “20/20,” Ms. Walters began a new phase in her ABC career, substantially increasing her number of primetime specials, in addition to her top-rated “Barbara Walters Specials.” Another signature broadcast of hers, launched in 1993, the “10 Most Fascinating People” offers a review of the most prominent newsmakers of the year. In 2010, Ms. Walters hosted her 29th and final Oscar special.
Over her expansive career, Ms. Walters has interviewed a variety of legends in politics and entertainment. They include every American President and First Lady since Richard Nixon. She made journalism history by arranging the first joint interview with Egypt’s President Anwar Sadat and Israel’s Prime Minister Menachem Begin in 1977. Another first was a conversation with Cuban President Fidel Castro — an interview that has been printed in half a dozen languages and shown all over the world. Other world leaders whom Ms. Walters has interviewed are Russia’s Boris Yeltsin, China’s Premier Jiang Zemin, Great Britain’s former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, and, most recently, Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad. Ms. Walters also tackled tough issues surrounding the war with Iraq, including reports on women and children who lived through the first Persian Gulf War. In 1999, Ms. Walters conducted the first interview with Monica Lewinsky, which became the highest-rated news program ever broadcast by a single network. She has interviewed pop cultural icons such as Sir Laurence Olivier, Bing Crosby, John Wayne, Bette Davis, Audrey Hepburn, and Elizabeth Taylor.
Ms. Walters has received national recognition for her work, and has been the recipient of numerous prestigious honors and awards. In 2009, she received another Daytime Emmy Award for “The View,” as an Outstanding Talk Show Host, and the hosts were chosen at one point as one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World” by Time Magazine. She is a New York Times best-selling author for her 2008 memoir Audition. In addition, she was inducted in 1990 into the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences’ Hall of Fame “for being acknowledged worldwide as one of television’s most respected interviewers and journalists,” followed in 2004 by induction into the Museum of Television and Radio. She has received lifetime achievement awards from the International Women’s Media Foundation, the Women’s Project and Productions, and twice from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. She received in 1988 the Overseas Press Club’s highest award, the President’s Award. Ms. Walters is the recipient of honorary doctoral degrees from Sarah Lawrence, her alma mater, as well as Ohio State University, Temple University, Marymount College, Wheaton College, Hofstra University and Ben-Gurion University in Jerusalem.
We are absolutely thrilled that Ms. Walters has agreed to join us for Class Day this May.
Kevin Adkisson, Secretary
Ben Schenkel, Treasurer