Meredith Vieira Chosen as 2015 Commencement Speaker
Honorary degree recipients, Metcalf Award winners also announced at Senior Breakfast
This just in from the Class of 2015 Senior Breakfast: Emmy-winning syndicated talk show host and former Today coanchor Meredith Vieira will deliver Boston University’s 142nd Commencement address on Sunday, May 17, at Nickerson Field.
University President Robert A. Brown made the announcement Friday morning at the George Sherman Union Metcalf Ballroom, where 2,500 students gathered over a breakfast of caramelized onion quiche, blueberry and cranberry scones, and coffee.
“I’m very proud to be part of BU’s graduation day,” Vieira said in a recorded message broadcast to students on the ballroom’s big screen. “See you then.”
Vieira will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. The president also named this year’s other honorary degree recipients: BU trustee Allen Questrom (Questrom’64), Doctor of Humane Letters; philanthropist Kelli Questrom, Doctor of Humane Letters; Grammy Award–winning jazz impresario and musician George Wein (CAS’50), Doctor of Humane Letters; and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) president and CEO Cornell William Brooks (STH’87), Doctor of Laws. Brooks will also give the Baccalaureate speech on Commencement morning at Marsh Chapel. Seung-Joon Lee (CAS’15) has been selected as this year’s student speaker.
Vieira’s name got a big round of applause from the crowd—the biggest ever at a Senior Breakfast, said event emcee Kenneth Elmore (SED’87), dean of students. Seniors who weren’t able to be seated in the Metcalf Ballroom ate in the GSU BackCourt and the Ziskind Lounge.
During the breakfast, the winners of the University’s highest teaching honor were also announced. Janice Furlong, a School of Social Work clinical associate professor of clinical practice and human behavior and a School of Medicine clinical associate professor, will receive the Metcalf Cup and Prize for Excellence in Teaching. Binyomin Abrams, a College of Arts & Sciences senior lecturer in chemistry, and Pamela Templer, a College of Arts & Sciences associate professor of biology, will receive Metcalf Awards for Excellence in Teaching. The three faculty members will be honored at the Commencement ceremony.
Born in Providence, R.I., Vieira graduated from Tufts University and began her journalism career in 1975 as a radio news announcer. She gained national recognition as a television reporter for CBS News. During her more than decadelong career there, she worked for the news magazine shows West 57th and 60 Minutes. In 1993, she moved to ABC News as chief correspondent for another news magazine show, Turning Point, before becoming the first moderator of the daytime television show The View, in 1997.
Vieira joined NBC in 2006, replacing Katie Couric (Hon.’11) as Today coanchor, and was a special correspondent for NBC News and Sports programming and later a cohost of the Beijing, Vancouver, London, and Sochi Olympics coverage. In 2014, she became the first woman to anchor NBC’s primetime coverage of the Olympics. She left Today in 2013 to pursue a number of other projects. She founded her own production company, which develops film, television, and theater projects, and launched a YouTube channel, LIVES with Meredith Vieira.
As host of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire for 11 seasons, Vieira has the distinction of hosting more episodes of a game show than any other woman. Currently, she is host and executive producer of The Meredith Vieira Show, a nationally syndicated daytime program that airs on WCVB in Boston. She has received 14 Emmy awards.
Earlier this spring, Allen Questrom and his wife, Kelli Questrom, donated $50 million to BU, the largest gift in University history, through their eponymous foundation. The gift renamed the School of Management the Questrom School of Business, and will be used to endow 10 faculty chairs and provide for planning to establish a new graduate program facility.
After graduating from BU in 1964, Allen Questrom rose rapidly from management trainee to executive positions in the retail industry. He directed the successful turnarounds of such prominent retailers as Barneys New York, Federated Department Stores, Neiman Marcus, and JCPenney. Today, Questrom is a senior advisor of Lee Equity Partners, a director of the Glazer Family of Companies, and a board member of Men’s Wearhouse, Inc., and the At Home retail chain.
In 1986, after a successful and influential career in fashion promotion, which included stints at Abraham & Straus, Mademoiselle, and Ralph Lauren, Kelli Questrom became active in civic life, supporting a broad range of philanthropic causes. She advocates for preventive medicine, cofounded the Greater Los Angeles Partnership for the Homeless, and served on the first national board of directors of Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS. Through the Allen and Kelli Questrom Foundation, Kelli Questrom has actively supported the arts, endowing educational programs at the Aspen Art Museum and the Dallas Museum of Art, where she has served as a trustee. Along with her husband, she is a member of the National Council of the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research.
Wein grew up in Boston, and a year after graduating from BU’s College of Liberal Arts in 1950, he opened the jazz club Storyville, which became a Boston hotspot showcasing renowned artists such as Billie Holiday, Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Ella Fitzgerald, and Dave Brubeck.
He produced the first Newport Jazz Festival in 1954, one of the most influential music festivals in the world. He cofounded the Newport Folk Festival in 1959, founded the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in 1970, and has produced and inspired hundreds of other music events over the last half-century. As a noted jazz pianist, Wein has recorded several albums and toured internationally with his group, the Newport All-Stars.
A longtime philanthropist, Wein established the Joyce and George Wein Chair in African American Studies at BU, the Alexander Family Endowed Scholarship Fund at Simmons College, and an annual artist prize given through the Studio Museum in Harlem in honor of his late wife, Joyce Alexander Wein.
This year he received a Grammy Trustees Award. In 2012, he was honored with the Association of Performing Arts Presenters Award of Merit for Achievement, given annually to an individual “whose genius, energy, and excellence has defined or redefined an art form.”
As president and CEO of the NAACP, Brooks oversees the nation’s oldest, largest, and most widely respected grassroots-based civil rights organization.
A graduate of both Head Start and Yale Law School, Brooks earned a Master of Divinity degree from BU’s School of Theology in 1987. He has said that he considers himself “a grandson, heir, and beneficiary” of the Supreme Court’s 1954 landmark decision Brown v. Board of Education, declaring unconstitutional state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students. Over the course of a distinguished career, Brooks has worked as a civil rights attorney, a social justice advocate, an ordained minister, and a coalition-builder. He ran for the US Congress from Virginia’s 10th District in 1998 as a Democrat, and has advocated for public education, affordable health care, and fiscal responsibility.
Prior to his position at the NAACP, Brooks was president and CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, where he was involved with legislation that enabled formerly incarcerated people to rebuild their lives, helped reduce juvenile detention rates in New Jersey to historic lows, and developed workforce training programs that placed more than 500 low-income residents in higher-wage jobs.
While serving in previous positions with the Federal Communications Commission and the US Department of Justice, he promoted small business and media ownership diversity, increased financing for minority- and women-owned businesses, and settlements for victims of housing discrimination.
Brown reminded the Class of 2015 of some of the things they experienced during their four years. When they arrived on campus in 2011, unemployment was almost 10 percent, but “now it’s close to 5 percent,” he said. This year’s record-breaking winter meant students had more holidays from class than the total from the last decade. They “lived through the tragedy of the Boston Marathon bombing,” and together with the University, mourned BU student Lu Lingzi (GRS’13), killed there. The Yawkey Center for Student Services opened, and this year, the first class from the newly named Questrom School of Business will graduate.
As students move on to the next “page of life,” Brown said, “what I hope you have done is find your passion.”
More information about Commencement can be found here.
Never underestimate the potential for disappointment with a BU commencement speaker.
You should not have to google your commencement speaker’s name to find out who she is and why she is important. I’m not belittling the accomplishment of Mrs. Vieira, but it’s amazing that a school with as much clout and funding as BU has consistently chooses the most uninspiring and dismal speakers for the graduation ceremony. I’m not sure if the speaker is just an appeasement to COM, as the past speaker was, and as the speaker before her was an appeasement to SED, but it seems to me that a pattern emerges upon closer inspection.
The university commencement speaker should be someone inspiration, influential, and above all, have a message for students to carry into the future. I’m sorry, but a talk-show co-anchor just doesn’t fit the three prongs of that test. With the money that BU has, or better yet, with the money that President Brown and the Board of Trustees has at its disposal we should be able to get speakers of distinguished repute. Why the university cannot pick a leader in the academic world to highlight the value of applied knowledge, or the business world to highlight the value of skilled and intellectual individuals within the economy is just downright sad. Better yet, choose an innovator or an influential member of the community. Choose a climate scientist or any scientist! Someone who plays a role in the engineering of the future and has something to which it is worth listening and remembering!
I guess that’s just too difficult a task for the Board and our administrators. If they put half as much thought into the commencement speaker as they did the next year’s tuition increase or funding for each college, we’d have someone worth hearing.
What a wonderful speaker she will be! It’s too bad that you think of her as just a talk-show anchor. She has a talk show now, but she is also an accomplished journalist with ties to the area. Additionally, she’s a wonderful advocate for those with MS. The partnership she and her husband have and how he lives with MS is incredibly inspiring.
These are all excellent accomplishments, however, it doesn’t seem that she has been chosen for most of the reasons that you’ve given. From the article, she was chosen for her journalism career and not for her philanthropy.
I’m not knocking her or her accomplishments. She might make an excellent commencement speaker for a school like Syracuse, where journalism is germane and vital. For a research institution like BU, though, I feel that better choices could be made.
Wendy Kopp was NOT an appeasement to SED. She was quite the opposite actually, as Teach for America encourages those without education degrees,licensure, or extensive classroom experience (all of which SED helps its students obtain) to enter into difficult classroom situations for which they are in many cases not prepared.
You seem to be missing the fact that an advocate for teaching does fall somewhere within the jurisdiction of SED. She may not have been speaking directly to SED students, or other interested groups, but her background and the reasons for choosing her were teaching.
Teachers are important. Wendy Knopp was far from a terrible choice for commencement speaker. You haven’t proven, though, that the choice to have her speak has nothing to do with SED or the fact that there have been so few SED-relevant speakers.
Wendy Kopp was a horrible choice for commencement speaker, so much so that several professors boycotted the commencement ceremonies because they didn’t want their presence in any way, shape, or form to be misconstrued as an endorsement of Ms. Kopp.
Ms. Kopp herself has said that TFA was never meant as a vehicle to develop teachers; it was meant as a vehicle to develop business leaders. It is abominable that grads cut their leadership skills on the backs of our neediest students and then cut out of Dodge to make their fortunes. As an educational administrator, I can tell you that those TFAers who stay have been a Godsend. However, let’s not laud Ms. Kopp as if she has created something noble for education in America. No way was her selection an appeasement for SED.
I agree with Thomas. It sounds like you are a little close-minded. Just because she is not a scholar who is conducting research doesn’t mean she is not an influential and inspiring person (which I think she is. She is an accomplished journalist who uses her fame for good). BU is a very big school and they need to find someone who will appeal to most people, which is a difficult task. I think they did a good job.
I resent being called closed minded. I would be open to any number of speakers, as I said in my comment. The caveat is, as I also said, relevance and influence. Vieira may be very accomplished in her own right, but as a commencement speaker, it seems the choice is out of place. And I agree wholeheartedly that BU is a very large school which complicates the choice. Having a broadcaster speak at the ceremony does in fact cover all of the bases as you say. But there is no reason to believe that another more innovative and high-profile speaker would not also cover all of the bases, and be at least as much of an inspiration to the entire student body.
As I responded above, it isn’t that Vieira isn’t accomplished. I intended to highlight that BU has a knack for picking commencement speakers that do anything but thrill and enthrall the graduating class.
If you think it is a commencement speaker’s mission to thrill and enthrall, then yes, Meredith is a poor choice. If however you think it is a commencement speaker’s role to inspire as these grads set out into the world, then I think she is a fine example for all the grads.
Wow…it is amazing that you have determined that Ms. Vieira doesn’t meet your standards ….. without even hearing her speak. How can you assume that she doesn’t have “a message for students to carry into the future”? Frightening that such a closed mind and ignorant philosophy is at the University. Hopefully, at some point, your narrow little viewpoint and ‘judgmental’ attitude will mature. Perhaps you should keep your disparaging remarks to yourself, to keep from openly displaying your ignorance and intolerance.
It isn’t my standards that Vieira has to meet, it’s a standard of relevance. And I’m sure that she will have a very well-scripted speech to deliver to the audience.
I am also infuriated that you would insinuate that I am closed-minded and ignorant. Perhaps you are too closed minded to consider the fact that better choices could have been made? As a matter of fact, closed minded would mean accepting without question the choice as excellent instead of giving thought to why she was chosen and pondering if there is someone better and more suited to the position. If you yourself were a mature, open-minded, intelligent, and thoughtful individual, you might arrive at a similar conclusion.
And it quite clearly begs your position to say “keep your disparaging remarks to yourself” when, in fact, you have disparaged me for sharing my viewpoint. As a matter of fact, it seems to indicate a certain degree of closed-mindedness, especially if you are unwilling to hear any opinion other than your own. That would also support a description of yourself as intolerant.
You are the one that needs to mature and lose the intolerance and subtle ignorance if you cannot handle disagreement. Universities are centered around the exchange of ideas and the expression of viewpoints. If it offends you to hear someone say something that you don’t agree with, then perhaps you’d be better off in another community.
I echo what Jake said. Wendy Kopp was an INSULT to SED, not an appeasement. If you were informed you would know that…AND would know who Meredith Vieira is and that she represents much more than her stints as a talk show host represent. I am very much looking forward to commencement and hearing what she has to say to the Class of 2015.
Ya’ go, BU Parent! Well said and spot on.
Well Judge, you weren’t as complimentary to Viera as being accomplished until your follow up comments. She does meet your criteria of relevant and influential if you ask most people, but obviously she does not to you. You would just prefer a different type of background or influencer. As an alum and long time employee I know that the realty is every year many students are disappointed that it isn’t Tina Fay!
Meredith who? This is clearly a case of a long, late attempted reach for someone who has (some) name recognition as all the major stars must have been booked. BU would have been better suited to have selected a virtual unknown with a legitimate story to tell, like a marathon bombing survivor or wounded combat veteran who has overcome great challenges or a medical professional working to tamp down Ebola in Africa to talk about their struggles and a motivational stirring of our emotions. Putting the lime light on a celebrity for them to get on their shine box for the sake of their name is a poor choice for this great day. But then again, maybe TMZ will cover the BU Commencement…free advertising I guess.
I am disappointed and will remain seated when she is announced, look for me.
Unless I missed it, you have yet to suggest a name that would be a better option.
I will file this among the petty complaints from people who are perpetually looking to bash BU, the faculty/staff, administrators and Board of Trustees – and miserable within their own lives!
Judge – It is pretty simple: if you don’t like the choice of the Commencement speaker – don’t go to Commencement.
The amount of time, effort and negative energy you have expended complaining about the speaker far exceeds what I expect will be the length of Meredith Vieira’s speech.
I’m not looking to “bash” anyone. And if you consider it a “petty” complaint, then by all means file it away in a cabinet in your office of superiority. And I’m far from miserable with my own life. As a matter of fact, I’ve truly enjoyed my experiences at BU. While I won’t be going to commencement regardless, that doesn’t mean that I cannot and should not voice an opinion on the subject.
Well said! That person was getting annoying.
I just think that more transparency into the selection process would be good. There’s such a huge variation in speakers from year to year. The year I entered BU (1989), we had PresidentS Bush and Mitterand. Two world leaders. When I graduated in ’93, we had Reverend Johnny Ray Youngblood and not a single person applauded in the GSU when Silber announced the speaker’s name. It’s quite possible that after 1989, everything seemed downhill from there. So I think it would help if students had a window into the process and perhaps be allowed to give some suggestions. But regardless of who the speaker is, it will undoubtedly be a great speech.
Congratulations to Dr. Pamela Templer for receiving a Metcalf Award for Excellence in Teaching. It is well-deserved. Pam is a wonderful mentor and does so much for young scientists!
Any word on who the speakers will be at the ceremonies for the other colleges (i.e. SED, Sargent, etc.)? Or where we can find this information?
With a 100K student loan, no job or guaranteed job placement and a future that’s so unpredictable, it really doesn’t matter who confers the speech.
The merits of Mrs. Viera aside, the call sign for the local channel on which her program is aired is WCVB, also known as channel 5, not WCBV.
You’re right–it’s fixed in the story.
We are living through **absolutely revolutionary** times in the sciences, particularly those that benefit from the technologies that make the **entire** content of organisms’ genomes — including humans, of course — literally open books (well, not quite, but close…). It’s virtually certain that the consequences of these developments will transform agriculture, medicine, and most widely used technologies. Not to have a **single** representative of this overwhelming development on the platform at commencement is a sad commentary on the superficiality of our culture… Let’s hope that the administration has plans for something better in the future… How about Francis Collins (Director of NIH) for example? Or Jennifer Doudna a **very** distinguished faculty member at UC Berkeley (pioneer of the CRISPER technology that opens the way to remaking any and all genomes — including Homo sapiens’ genome…? There are plenty of distinguished candidates who might not only tell some good jokes, but also could alert the audience to developments in molecular biology that will soon transform human life — and the lives of any other species we may choose to modify!
It seems that I am not the only one disappointed in the choice of commencement speaker. In reply to most of the comments lauding the choice of Mrs. Vieira, simply because the chosen individual meets your standards for a commencement speaker does not entitle you to reject disagreement. Perhaps it isn’t my standard that it too high, but that your standards are too low. There are brilliant people working in many, many different fields from science and research to humanities and business. Individuals who have disagreed, including myself, do not need to carry the burden of giving precise names for better candidates. Those who think that Vieira will make a wonderful speaker have also yet to deny that a better speaker could have been proposed. They have stopped, sat on their behinds, and accepted what was handed to them. Again, what a terribly close-minded approach. I suppose that they would have others, including myself, think “how dare we choose to question and disagree to vet the choice?”
Scott’s comment was quite poignant and on target. And he listed names, if that is what the supporters so desperately needed to verify any dissent. There were better choices for speaker, and they weren’t picked. Ipso facto, BU did not make the *best* decision possible, even by the supporter’s rationale.
Judge, all commencement speakers aside, the fact that you continue with your incessant posting in rebuttal against counter-opinions on what is ultimately a mundane subject in the grand scheme of things indicates to me some degree of either insecurity or an insistence that you have to be correct. This idea of someone’s gotta be right and someone’s gotta be wrong is polarizing, especially on something so trivial in the grand scheme. You assert that Meredith is a lousy choice for commencement speaker………okay, you may be right. Others here and I assert that she is not……okay we may be right. Personally, I’d like to see such extended dialogue on more pressing issues of the day. For that reason……..I have damn near embarrassed myself for posting four remarks here on the subject. Let it go, dude. Society needs your passion (and your gift of articulation) in other arenas.
What a vapid choice. This is what counts as aspirational at BU and represents the kind of career to which our students should strive?