Graduating seniors will have a chance to hear from National News Correspondent Bill Whitaker who over the course of his career has covered every major news event ranging from the Tiananmen Square uprising to the battlefront in Iraq and the 2008 Presidential Campaign trail for CBS News with Katie Couric.
Whitaker will bring his firsthand experience back to his alma mater on Sunday, May 18 when he offers the Commencement address to the Hobart and William Smith Colleges Classes of 2008.
Approximately 375 seniors from the two colleges are expected to receive Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees. The occasion is Hobart College’s 183rd Commencement and the 97th for William Smith College.
“As a correspondent for CBS News, Bill Whitaker has demonstrated a remarkable amount of insight on the globe’s most pressing issues,” said Hobart and William Smith President Mark D. Gearan. “At the center of every major event of the past quarter century, he is the face our nation turns to each evening for news. He will offer our graduates his own insights on how a liberal arts education has prepared him for a life of consequence and meaning.”
Whitaker joined CBS News in 1984 and is a regular reporter for the CBS Evening News and other CBS News broadcasts. Over the years he has served as lead correspondent on both O.J. Simpson trials, the Heaven’s Gate mass suicide, the Los Angeles earthquake and the El Nino weather phenomenon. He was the lead reporter covering the 2000 presidential campaign of George W. Bush.
In the past two weeks alone, he has covered the U.S. from coast-to-coast, reporting on the legacy of actor and gun rights activist Charleton Heston; security along the border between the U.S. and Mexico; protests surrounding the Olympic torch relay in San Francisco; and, just this week, the Democratic primary in Philadelphia and the support of Barack Obama by minority voters.
For three years, prior to joining the CBS News Los Angeles bureau in November 1992, he served as the company’s Tokyo correspondent. From there, Whitaker covered stories throughout the Middle East and Asia, including military coup attempts in the Philippines, the enthronement of Japan’s Emperor Akihito, and the build-up to Desert Storm in Baghdad. Previously, Whitaker was a correspondent for WBTV-TV, the CBS affiliate in Charlotte, N.C., having joined that station in 1982 as part of the CBS News Minority Training Program. He reported on state politics, including the close North Carolina senate election battle between Sen. Jesse Helms and Gov. Jim Hunt.
While based in Atlanta in the late 1980s, he covered the 1988 presidential campaign of Michael Dukakis. Whitaker was born in Philadelphia and graduated from Hobart with a bachelor’s degree in American history in 1973 and from Boston University with a master’s degree in African-American studies in 1974. Whitaker also attended the Master of Journalism program at the University of California, Berkeley. He was honored at the Minorities in Broadcasting Program seventh annual “Striving for Excellence Awards.”
Whitaker has remained connected to his Geneva alma mater and is a current member of the Colleges’ Board of Trustees. He has spoken on campus on a number of occasions, including as the master of ceremonies at the opening celebrations of Campaign for the Colleges, the capital campaign which seeks to raise $160 million. In 1997, he spoke at the Colleges’ commencement ceremonies and was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters for his committed service throughout the years.
Although he regularly travels across the country to cover the news, he manages to remain active in his community through volunteer activities with adult literacy tutoring programs and through serving meals in homeless shelters. He and his wife, Teresita Conley, and their two children live in Los Angeles.
Commencement ceremonies will begin at 10 a.m. on Sunday, May 18, with the procession of students onto the quad (rain location: Bristol Field House). Commencement will begin at 10:30 followed by the post-commencement reception and luncheon.