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Jim Lehrer, one of the nation’s most respected and honored journalists, will be the principal speaker at Lafayette’s 167th Commencement on Saturday, May 25, 2002, and will be awarded an honorary Lafayette degree.

Lehrer is executive editor and anchor of The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. Carried on more than 300 PBS stations and watched by more than three million people each weeknight, the show has the greatest reach of any PBS program.

Lafayette president Arthur J. Rothkopf said, “I am delighted that Jim Lehrer will speak to our students and parents at commencement. In a long and distinguished career he has earned a reputation throughout our nation and the world as a journalist of high standards and great integrity.”

Lehrer joins a list of distinguished Lafayette commencement speakers in recent years, including former President George Bush, Maya Angelou, George F. Will, Doris Kearns Goodwin, David McCullough, Bill Cosby, and French Ambassador Francois Bujon de l’Estang.

Lehrer has been a moderator for nine nationally televised debates among the candidates in the last four presidential elections. In 1996, he was selected to be the sole moderator of all three debates, two presidential and one vice presidential, and in 2000, in an unprecedented show of respect and confidence, he was selected as the sole moderator of the three presidential debates.

Lehrer has been honored with numerous awards for journalism. In 1999 he received the National Humanities Medal, presented by President Bill Clinton and Hillary Rodham Clinton. That same year he was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame (with Robert MacNeil) and into The Silver Circle of the Washington, D.C., Chapter of The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Lehrer has won two Emmys, the Fred Friendly First Amendment Award, George Foster Peabody Broadcast Award, William Allen White Foundation Award for Journalistic Merit, and the University of Missouri School of Journalism’s Medal of Honor. In 1991, he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Lehrer joined forces with Robert MacNeil in 1973 to anchor public television’s unprecedented, gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Senate Watergate hearings. The team earned an Emmy Award and initiated one of the most enduring and respected journalistic partnerships in television history.

In 1975 The Robert MacNeil Report, a half-hour news program that provided in-depth coverage of a different single issue each weeknight, debuted locally in New York, with Lehrer as Washington correspondent. A few months later, the successful program was re-titled The MacNeil/Lehrer Report and distributed nationally by PBS. For the next seven years, the program set a standard for TV journalism and garnered more than 30 major awards for its co-anchors.

In 1983, the partners took a major risk and transformed The MacNeil/Lehrer Report into The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, the nation’s first hour-long nightly broadcast of national news. Broadcasting simultaneously from New York and Washington, the program inspired participation by thousands of the world’s newsmakers and a growing roster of top-flight correspondents and analysts.

The NewsHour received numerous Emmy and Peabody awards, along with virtually every other significant award for quality television and outstanding journalism. With MacNeil’s departure in 1995, the award-wining program debuted in its current form.

Today, Lehrer and MacNeil remain partners in MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, a co-producer of the NewsHour and producer of other programs and series for public, commercial and cable television, several of which Lehrer has hosted. The most recent was the Emmy Award-nominated “Debating Our Destiny: Forty Years of Presidential Debates,” in which Lehrer interviewed former presidential and vice-presidential candidates about their debate experiences.

Born in Wichita, Kansas, in 1934, Lehrer received an A.A. degree from Victoria College and a B.J. in 1956 from the University of Missouri before joining the Marine Corps.

He is the author of a dozen novels. His latest book, The Special Prisoner, was published in May 2000. A made-for-television movie of The Last Debate aired in fall 2000 on the Showtime Channel. His 13th novel, No Certain Rest, will be published this year.

Six of the novels are about a fictional lieutenant governor of Oklahoma and two feature the adventures of some retired CIA agents. He is also author of three plays Chili Queen, Church Key Charlie Blue and The Will and Bart Show, and two volumes of memoirs, We Were Dreamers and A Bus of My Own.

Lehrer and his wife, Kate, have been married since 1960. They have three daughters, Amanda, Lucy, and Jamie.

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