Brian Williams selected as Commencement speaker

Brian Williams, who hails from New Jersey like many of his Colonial cohorts, will headline the University Commencement Ceremony in May. Photo by David Shankbone and used under Creative Commons.

The University will announce Thursday that a longtime NBC anchor and one of the world’s most-watched journalists will headline the University Commencement Ceremony May 20.

Brian Williams, the anchor and managing editor of NBC Nightly News, will receive an honorary doctorate of humane letters from the University, more than 30 years after he originally left college degree-less to work for President Jimmy Carter.

His coverage of Hurricane Katrina and the storm’s aftermath earned his high-praise, including an accolade from Vanity Fair which called him ” Murrow-worthy,” after the legendary broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow.

“We are thrilled to welcome Brian Williams back to George Washington. As an accomplished journalist, a student of history and participant in global activities, Brian Williams is an inspiration to our students,” Vice President of External Relations Lorraine Voles said. “Commencement at GW is like no other in the country and we look forward to a memorable event for all involved.”

The former White House correspondent said that leaving college – he briefly attended Brookdale Community College, Catholic University and GW – was one of his “great regrets.”

During his 31-year career, Williams has earned 11 Edward R. Murrow Awards, 12 Emmy Awards, the duPont-Columbia University Award, the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism and the George Foster Peabody Award.

In 2010, Williams spoke at the University of Notre Dame’s Commencement where he called on the graduating class to step up and solve national crises like poverty, obesity and education.

Williams marks a break from a recent tradition of tapping politicians to speak to the estimated 20,000 graduates and families at Commencement. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg sent off the graduating class of 2011 with jokes last year, first lady Michelle Obama headlined the event in 2010 and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel asked for students to put “all-hands-on-deck” for America in his 2009 speech.

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