Fresh from covering revolts in Cairo, award-winning ABC News anchor and correspondent David Muir ’95 will deliver this year’s commencement address May 22.
Muir joined ABC News in August 2003 as an overnight news anchor and moved on to become one of the network’s lead correspondents on several major domestic and international stories. He has won multiple Emmy awards and has also reported from across the globe — including China, the Middle East, South America, Eastern Europe and South Africa.
Muir was named sole anchor of the weekend editions of ABC’s evening newscast, which was renamed “World News with David Muir” on Feb. 14. He had been anchoring the Saturday broadcast since 2007.
Senior class president Danielle Giserman, who is on the commencement committee, said the executive board wanted to host someone who can relate to students and be a positive reinforcement.
“I don’t know who would be better to come speak to us as graduates than someone who is an alum and someone who reports in the real world when we’re about to go into it,” she said.
Brian McAree, vice president for student affairs and campus life and chair of the commencement committee, said finding a commencement speaker is not an overnight process. Choosing a speaker begins in the fall and is a yearlong decision. It also involves getting input from the Division of Institutional Advancement and the Office of Alumni Relations.
“[We look for] not only someone who was a wonderful student leader here at Ithaca College and had a quality experience but someone who has gone on since graduation to really make a name for themselves and really contribute to society and also the world,” he said.
McAree said because Muir is a young, accomplished journalist, he will have a lot of advice to offer the graduating class.
“He has sat in those same seats in 1995 that our students are sitting in today as graduates,” he said. “He’s going to really create a sense of excitement for them, a sense of hope and anticipation of getting out there and trying to make their mark on the world.”
Julie Levitt, director of communications for the senior executive board, said it will be nice to hear from a recent graduate of the college who has been successful.
“When you just read what he has done and where’s he’s been and the things he’s gotten to see at such a young age, he’s motivational,” she said.
Last year, actress and activist CCH Pounder ’75 spoke to seniors. It was the first year the college instituted a policy of finding a notable alumnus or faculty member to speak.
President Tom Rochon said not only are Pounder and Muir alumni, but they are also celebrities in their respective fields.
“The senior class has been very clear that they think it’s far more meaningful to hear from someone who has been a student at Ithaca College than to hear from someone who is simply parachuted into Ithaca for 24 hours,” he said.
Before last year, McAree said, the college mostly chose celebrity speakers to speak at commencement, but having a celebrity speak is not as inspirational.
“We felt going with a notable alumni, someone who knows the Ithaca College campus, knows the student experience here, has achieved so much in their young and more seasoned lives could really send a wonderful message to our students,” McAree said.
McAree said the college’s budget doesn’t factor into choosing a speaker but was taken into consideration in past years when the college still featured celebrity speakers for commencement.
“One of the things we had to consider a couple years ago was the increased prices that celebrity speakers were asking for these kind of engagements,” he said. “It was just one of the considerations, but philosophically we thought going to an alumni speaker who had experienced Ithaca College and was knowledgeable about us and had a connection would be more attractive.”
Levitt said having an alumnus speak provides a more personal experience.
“It’s nice before you graduate to speak to somebody who has been in your shoes as a student and see where they are today,” she said.
Rochon said the experience is important for both students and returning alumni.
“This is a very meaningful return to their alma mater, so they put a great deal of effort into a speech for this occasion and for this audience,” he said. “Our seniors are very well served by this.”