Brian Williams to Be Commencement Speaker

Brian Williams
Brian Williams / NBC Photo: Justin Stephens
February 29, 2012

Graduating students will have the opportunity to hear from one of the nation’s top journalists at this year’s university-wide Commencement ceremony.

Brian Williams, anchor and managing editor of the country’s top-rated nightly news program, will deliver George Washington’s Commencement address and receive an honorary degree from the university. An estimated 25,000 graduates, families and friends are expected to attend the May 20 ceremony on the National Mall.

“Brian Williams is an esteemed and accomplished journalist,” said GW President Steven Knapp. “His wealth of knowledge and experience and his attendance at George Washington make him an ideal speaker. We are honored that he has accepted our invitation to address the class of 2012.”

Mr. Williams began his broadcasting career in 1981 at KOAM-TV in Pittsburg, Kan. He worked at local stations in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and New York City before joining NBC News in 1993.

He served as NBC’s chief White House correspondent and later assumed the role of anchor and managing editor of The News With Brian Williams on MSNBC and CNBC. In 2004, Mr. Williams took over as anchor of NBC Nightly News. Last year, NBC News launched Rock Center with Brian Williams, a primetime newsmagazine.

“It is an honor to be asked, and I intend to point out the obvious: every graduate in the audience will have achieved what I failed to do...earn a college degree,” said Mr. Williams, who attended GW for a semester in 1980.

The university also announced two other honorary degree recipients—Carlos Slim and Clarice Smith—who will be recognized at the university-wide Commencement ceremony.

An international business leader and humanitarian, Mr. Slim has made significant contributions to business and community development in Mexico and Latin America, and his extensive philanthropic work through his foundations has led to improvements and investments in education, health and the fine arts. Mr. Slim was awarded the George Washington University President’s Medal in 2009.

Ms. Smith is a native of Washington, D.C., and a two-time George Washington alumna. She was also a member of GW’s art department faculty from 1980 to 1987. Ms. Smith has been painting professionally for 35 years and has had numerous solo exhibitions in museums and galleries in the United States and abroad. She currently serves on the Board of Commissioners at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Previous GW Commencement speakers include New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg; First Lady Michelle Obama; Rahm Emanuel, former chief of staff to President Barack Obama; former President George H.W. Bush and former First Lady Barbara Bush; and then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Student Life