Helen Thomas joins SMPA faculty

Veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas will join GW’s School of Media and Public Affairs faculty as a Shapiro Fellow this fall.

I’m very excited about this opportunity, Thomas said. I thought it was a wonderful opportunity to stay in touch with journalism . I was very lucky to be selected by GW.

Thomas, who resigned from United Press International in May after 57 years, will give lectures, hold monthly informal gatherings with students and have individual meetings with them. She will have an office, but will not teach any classes.

Thomas, who received an honorary degree from GW in 1999, said she accepted the fellowship because the GW was the first university to ask her.

Jean Folkerts, director of SMPA, contacted Thomas about taking part in GW’s journalism department.

She has been an inspiration to women journalists everywhere, Folkerts said, according to a University press release. She has achieved her position through hard work and through being the consummate professional journalist. Her message to journalists has always been that professionalism and integrity constitute the path to success.

Thomas said she will encourage students to go into the field of journalism because it offers a chance to observe the world in a unique way and has been fulfilling in her life

Although her time commitment and specific role on campus have not been defined yet, Thomas said will be on campus as much as she is asked.

It just depends on how much they want me and what they want me to do, she said. I’ll do everything with serious enthusiasm.

The first thing Thomas said she plans to do this fall is visit GW and find out how the SMPA program operates.

Although Thomas resigned her position with UPI in May, she said she never retired and had no plans of slowing down. She will visit the White House everyday as she writes two columns a week for Hearst News Service.

One of America’s most distinguished journalists, Thomas joined United Press International’s Washington bureau in 1943. In 1956 she was transferred to the national desk, where she covered the Justice Department and Department of Health, Education and Welfare, before being assigned to the White House press bureau in January 1961.

Thomas was the first woman to close a presidential press conference with the traditional Thank you, Mr. President, and she became the first woman to head a White House bureau wire service in 1971.

Thomas, 79, has covered every administration since John F. Kennedy took office.

SMPA selects one Shapiro Fellow every year to bring respected professionals to GW. The program is designed to provide students with professionals who can give them advice, encourage them and help them create better careers.

Martha Matzke, co-founder of Education Week, joined the SMPA faculty as a Shapiro Fellow last fall.

The School of Media and Public Affairs has 17 full-time faculty, 250 undergraduate students and 25 graduate students.

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