Trailblazing journalist Gwen Ifill to be honored with a media and arts program bearing her name
One year after journalist Gwen Ifill passed, her undergraduate institution is honoring the trailblazing alumna. Masschusetts’ Simmons College will open the Gwen Ifill College of Media, Arts and Humanity next fall. The college is also expected to feature Ifill’s documents and belongings. But, before this news broke, PBS NewsHour and the Washington Press Club began a fellowship named after Ifill to help undergraduate and graduate students with financial need.
“She’s just a classic success story for us that we’re so proud to attach to Simmons College,” Simmons College President Helen Drinan told the Boston Herald on Tuesday. Ifill earned a communication B.A. in 1977 before she began reporting for the Boston Herald. Throughout her illustrious career, she worked for the New York Times, Baltimore Evening Sun and the Washington Post.
“She took everything we had to offer and made it into a fantastic career and continuously gave back,” Drinan said. “I am certain that this will attract other students who are interested in Gwen’s kind of journalism.”
As Essence noted, Ifill became the first Black female moderator of a vice presidential debate. The native New Yorker went on to moderate the 2008 vice presidential debate and the 2016 Democratic presidential debate with Judy Woodruff.
“Gwen was one of the most talented journalists of our time,” Don Lemon said on CNN. Lemon said he met Ifill in the 1990s at a National Association of Black Journalists event. Through teary eyes and a shaky voice, Lemon shared a story about Ifill agreeing to constructively critique his demo tape. “I hung onto her every word,” Lemon said. “You were simply brilliant and powerful, a quiet storm, professional, understated, humble.”
“Gwen was a standard bearer for courage, fairness and integrity in an industry going through seismic change. She was a mentor to so many across the industry and her professionalism was respected across the political spectrum. She was a journalist’s journalist and set an example for all around her,” PBS NewsHour Executive Producer Sara Just said in a statement.
Cancer complications caused Ifill’s death.