By Maddy Longwell
The Simmons community joined the rest of the world this week in mourning the death of Gwen Ifill. Ifill, 61, died Monday, Nov. 14. A journalist best known as the moderator of “Washington Week” and the co-anchor of “PBS NewsHour,” both on PBS, Ifill was described by her peers as a trailblazing journalist, and a leader in her field.
Ifill graduated from Simmons in 1977 with a B.A. in communications. She reported for the Boston Herald-American, Baltimore Evening Sun, Washington Post, New York Times, and NBC before joining PBS. She was also an author, her book “The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the age of Obama” was published on the day of President Obama’s 2009 inauguration.
In an email to the Simmons community on Tuesday, President Helen Drinan wrote “throughout her career, Gwen was a source of inspiration and pride for everyone at Simmons, most especially for students and alumnae/i who aspired to her level of achievement and excellence in journalism.”
On Monday, President Obama remarked on her death at the start of a press conference. “Gwen was a friend of ours. She was an extraordinary journalist; she always kept faith with the fundamental responsibilities of her profession: asking tough questions, holding people in power accountable, and defending a strong and free press that makes our democracy work.”
Ifill died on Monday due to complications of uterine cancer. Although she was going through treatments, Ifill continued to work through much of this election season. She, alongside Judy Woodruff, made up the first all-female anchor team on network nightly news, and together they moderated a Democratic Primary debate between Senator Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“All of us in the Simmons community were proud to know that one of our own was informing the national conversation around vital issues in a meaningful way. And to us it made perfect sense that the first pair of women to co-anchor a network news broadcast would include a Simmons alumna,” President Drinan continued in the email.
In addition to her B.A. in 1977, Ifill received an honorary doctorate from Simmons in 1993 and was the commencement speaker in 2009.
In the email to the community, President Drinan said that Simmons plans to pay tribute to Ifill after the Thanksgiving break. She encouraged community members to sign an online condolence card in the meantime.
On Monday, Slate Magazine contributor and Face the Nation anchor John Dickerson published a tribute to Ifill, “We were lucky, those of us who knew Gwen because we spent time in her company, but also because we have her example. So as a tribute to Gwen I will work harder at the job we both love and I’ll try harder to fuel toward what she did with such ease, which is spread love and joy and delight. And I will put on Hamilton, which she loved so much. Gwen did not throw away her shot.”