Wellesley Community Remembers Award-Winning Journalist Cokie Roberts ’64

September 18, 2019
Cokie Roberts sits in an interview chair
Credit:
Wellesley College

In 1994, Cokie Boggs Roberts ’64 returned to Wellesley to address her alma mater’s graduating class. “Life is long,” she told the assembled seniors. “I think that it is important to look at the long view as you go out of here and realize that there’s a long time ahead, and there is time to see it all, to do it all, and to do it in ways that make you proud and happy in the end.”

“Go out into the world and take care of it,” she urged.

Roberts died in Washington, D.C., on September 17 at age 75. Over her distinguished career, she won three Emmys, was inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame, and was named a “living legend” by the Library of Congress in 2008. She worked for CBS News, NPR, PBS, and ABC News, forging a path for women journalists at a time when almost all political reporters were men.

On that commencement day at Wellesley, Roberts said she thought she would have plenty of time to draft her remarks, but she was unexpectedly assigned to report a story about a young woman who wanted to attend the Citadel, at the time an all-male institution. Her class reunion book, which she had received the previous day, provided her with welcome inspiration. “Thank God for it, because I was not prepared for this speech,” she joked. “I was having to cram.”

In her address, she reflected on her classmates’ observations in the reunion book. “I was just struck by the choices that people at our age, 30 years out of here, feel that they are continuing to make and having to make,” Roberts said. “That it is all still sort of in front of them in a variety of ways.” Slipping into her role as a reporter, she shared selections from lawyers, a professor, a piano teacher, and others. “This book is actually a fascinating book,” she said. “It has stories for everyone.”

“We have this wonderful, wonderful continuum.”  

As news of Roberts’ passing spread, Wellesley’s continuum lit up with recollections of the impact of her life and career. Several graduates, many of whom Roberts inspired to enter journalism, shared their memories across social media.

“Cokie Roberts pioneered roles for women in broadcast journalism, radio, and TV, and those deep roots she planted for the many women who came after her held strong. She kept the focus on women in her book and on NPR,” Melissa Ludtke ’73, noted sports journalist, wrote on Twitter.

“I was lucky to have met Cokie Roberts during the Wellesley in Washington summer internship program,” tweeted Beth Santos ’08, a travel blogger and entrepreneur. “We shared one fun quality—we were both presidents of the Wellesley Widows! She will be deeply missed.”

“One of my favorite Wellesley alums,” said podcaster Makkah Ali ’10, also on Twitter. “I grew up with her voice helping me make sense of the world.”

Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Korbel Albright ’59 also offered her condolences: “[Cokie] was a towering voice for truth, a pathbreaker for women, and a mentor to younger generations—including at our beloved Wellesley College. Like so many others who cherished her work, I will miss her dearly.”

The text of Cokie Roberts’ 1994 commencement address is available online.