TV Journalist Jim Lehrer to Speak at Penn Commencement

PHILADELPHIA -- Jim Lehrer, one of the most respected television journalists in the United States and the host of "The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," will deliver the Commencement address at the 246th Commencement ceremony of the University of Pennsylvania Monday, May 13.

The procession will enter Franklin Field at 9:30 a.m. at 33rd and South streets. Approximately 6,000 degrees will be conferred.

Lehrer has moderated nine presidential debates in the last four elections and served as the sole moderator for all presidential debates in both 1996 and 2000. "The MacNeil/Lehrer Report" (subsequently renamed "The MacNeil/Lehrer Newshour" and, since Robert MacNeil's departure in 1995-96, "The Newshour with Jim Lehrer") has been a fixture on public-television stations for more than 25 years and won more than 30 awards for journalistic excellence.

Lehrer teamed up with Robert MacNeil in 1973 to provide continuous live coverage of the Senate Watergate hearings in a collaboration that won an Emmy for producer National Public Affairs Center for Television.

Lehrer continues his partnership with MacNeil in MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, co-producing "The Newshour" as well as a range of other programs and series for public, commercial and cable television, including a recent Emmy-nominated documentary about presidential and vice-presidential debates. Lehrer is also the author of 12 novels, two memoirs and three plays.

He received an A.A. degree from Victoria College and a B.J. from the University of Missouri before joining the Marine Corps. He began his journalistic career as a reporter, becoming the city editor of the Dallas Times Herald in 1968. He made the transition to television at Dallas' KERA-TV, serving as executive director of public affairs, as well as on-air host and editor of a nightly news program. He subsequently moved to Washington, D.C., to serve as the public-affairs coordinator for PBS, a member of PBS Journalism Advisory Board and a fellow at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Lehrer will receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. Other honorary degree recipients are:

  • Joan Ganz Cooney, television producer and media executive who pioneered educational uses of television for children. In 1968, believing that it would be possible to use television to communicate basic skills, model social behavior and encourage a love of learning among inner-city preschoolers, Cooney co-founded the Children's Television Workshop (now Sesame Workshop) and launched the first episode of Sesame Street in 1969.
  • Eric Hobsbawn, generally considered to be the most influential historian alive, whose work includes a magisterial four-volume series on the modern world beginning with "The Age of Revolution, 1789-1848" and continuing through "The Age of Capital, 1848-1875," "The Age of Empire, 1875-1914" and "The Age of Extremes, 1914-1991." Smaller studies have included innovative and acclaimed works on labor movements, working-class culture, jazz, Italian social movements, bandits, nationalism, "invented traditions" and left politics.
  • Irwin Jacobs, an innovative engineer whose triumphs as an entrepreneur and chief executive make him a role model for the successful transition from academia to the world of business. Jacobs' pioneering work on Code Division Multiple Access led to its commercialization and continuing success as the world's fastest-growing, most advanced digital wireless communications technology.
  • Richard Smalley, whose research in chemical physics has led to the discovery of a third elemental form of carbon, adding "fullerness" to graphite and diamonds. He has built on his discovery and characterization of C60 (Buckminsterfullerene), a soccerball-shaped molecule, by generating fullerenes with metals trapped on the inside and by producing tubular single-fullerene molecules-"buckytubes"-in form of a fiber 100 times stronger than steel at one-sixth the weight.

This year's Baccalaureate speaker will be James O'Donnell, professor of classical studies and vice provost for information systems and computing at Penn. He has published widely on the cultural history of the late antique Mediterranean world and is a recognized innovator in the application of networked information technology in higher education.

The Baccalaureate Ceremony, an interfaith program that includes music, readings and prayers, will take place in Irvine Auditorium on Sunday, May 12. There will be two consecutive ceremonies at 1:30 and 3 p.m.