First Lady of the Press’ to speak at graduation

By Abigail Keefe
April 28, 2005

The Class of 2005 and all attending guests will have the opportunity to hear distinguished journalist Helen Thomas deliver the 45th Commencement address.

“Helen Thomas was selected because her accomplishments and achievements reflect those that the College elects to honor,” Dr. Christine Lysionek, the vice president of Student Development said. “Each year, an invitation is issued to students, faculty and staff inviting them to submit nominations for the future honorary degree consideration,” she said. Those who have met the criteria and obtain Board approval are “added to the list of eligible candidates maintained by the President’s Office,” Lysionek said.

Writer of three books, including “Front Row at the White House: My Life and Times” and her most recent, “Thanks for the Memories Mr. President: Wit and Wisdom from the Front Row at the White House,” Thomas was the United Press International’s White House correspondent for nearly 40 years. She has since retired and today writes twice a week as a syndicated columnist.

“As a young graduate student in the School of Journalism, I remember being awestruck,” said Dawn Francis, a professor of communication. Thomas had spoken to Francis’ Reporting on Our Nation’s Government class in graduate school.

The “First Lady of the Press” graduated from Wayne State University and began her career as a copy girl for the Washington Daily News. She began working for the United Press International in 1943. It was in 1961 that Thomas began covering the Kennedy administration and since, has covered eight Presidents.

“I distinctly remember her saying that once an individual runs for public office, that person opens him or herself up to public security. Elected public officials have no right to cry foul when asked tough questions. They are accountable to the public,” Francis said. “I still credit these words of wisdom to Helen Thomas when I’m teaching about First Amendment freedoms and invasions of privacy in intro to mass communication,” she said.

Thomas made many historic firsts for women. She was the only print journalist to make the historic trip to China with President Nixon in 1972, the first woman member of the Gridiron Club and the first woman officer of the National Press Club. Thomas may also be recognized for being the first woman to end a presidential news conference with the long-established “Thank you, Mr. President.” Since beginning her coverage in the White House, Thomas has covered every economic summit.

Lysionek said, “Currently, I am in the process of preparing an announcement soliciting nominations for next year’s Commencement and beyond and providing forms they can use to nominate candidates.”

Posted to the web by Ashley Yurcisin

Abigail Keefe

Abigail Keefe is a Cabrini College student studying communications, enjoying her time in Radnor, Pennsylvania. Abbie loves working for the school newspaper, the Loquitur, and is also passionate about everything that the communication field has to offer.

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