Journalist, playwright chosen as speakers

by Frankie Olito / Beacon Staff • April 26, 2012

Tony kushnerweb
Award-winning playwright Tony Kushner
Wikimedia Commons
Award-winning playwright Tony Kushner
Wikimedia Commons

David Gregory, the host of NBC’s Meet the Press, will speak at the commencement ceremony May 14, college officials announced Tuesday.

The long-time TV journalist and American University graduate will deliver a speech to the undergraduate class alongside Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner, who will give the graduate address. 

Gregory and Kushner will also be two of four people to receive honorary degrees from Emerson during the graduation ceremonies. The others will be Bobbi Brown and Robert Pinksy. 

“I was really happy,” said Wynn Harrison, class of 2012 president and a broadcast journalism major. “It was really special for us.” 

Bobbi Brown, founder of Bobbi Brown Cosmetics and an Emerson alumna, will be awarded for her work empowering women through national leadership programs, according to a statement from the college. Emerson’s gym is named after both Brown and Stephen Plofker.

Poet Robert Pinksy will also be honored for his prestigious body of works, including prize winning poetry books and accompanying CDs.

Harrison said the response from the senior class has been positive. 

“There has been an overwhelming great response,” Harrison said. “Twitter has been blowing up.”

Gregory has been the moderator of NBC’s Sunday morning talk show since 2008. In his career as a journalist, he has reported on topics including the OJ Simpson trial, the aftermath of 9/11, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

“Gregory has built a reputation for asking tough questions and for his effective use of social media,” Andrew Tiedemann, vice president of communications and marketing, wrote in an email to the college.

Kushner is best known for his play “Angels in America,” which won a Pulitzer Prize in 1993 and two Tony Awards for Best Play. 

The past three undergraduate commencement speakers have been screenwriter Richard LaGravenese, novelist Bernard Cornwell, and actor Blair Underwood. 

“It would be terrific to have a special person from the field of journalism,” Tiedemann said in a phone interview. “We are thrilled to have him.”

Harrison said the senior class council created a list early this year of people they wanted as a speaker with names such as Ben Affleck, Kathryn Bigelow, and Sean Penn. The list was then given to Dean of Students Ronald Ludman and President M. Lee Pelton. 

“We tried to pick people that were the head of companies or people who have a connection to Emerson and Boston,” Harrison said. 

Ludman, Pelton, and trustees review the list and try to seek a balance by comparing it to past speakers, said Tiedemann.

Satenik Karapetyan, a senior journalism major, said she was happy with the college’s decision.

“Personally, I think it’s an excellent choice. I may be biased in saying that because I am a journalism major. The speaker is a very well-recognized veteran journalist that many aspiring journalists like myself look up to,” Karapetyan said. 

During Emerson’s 132nd commencement ceremonies, approximately 1,000 bachelor’s degrees and 200 graduate degrees will be handed out, according to the press release. 

“I know no matter who they got, it would be one of the best days of our lives,” Harrison said.