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Simmons College to name new media and arts program after Gwen Ifill

Simmons College announced today that one of its new colleges will be named after the late Gwen Ifill, the renowned journalist and figurehead of the “PBS NewsHour” and “Washington Week” programs who died a year ago.

The newly formed Gwen Ifill College of Media, Arts, and Humanities is scheduled to launch in fall 2018. It’s one of four colleges recently formed to help restructure Simmons College’s range of academic studies.

Years before she became the celebrated co-anchor of the NewsHour and moderator of the political roundtable of Washington Week, Ifill graduated from Simmons in 1977 with a bachelor’s degree in communications.

Helen Drinan, president of Simmons College, told the NewsHour that Ifill’s passing in November last year was a “terrible event.” The president recalled how Ifill was a “true friend” of Simmons, never hesitating to take a phone call from the college. Drinan said naming the new College of Media, Arts, and Humanities was a way of cementing Ifill’s legacy at Simmons.

“The kind of unimpeded curiosity Gwen brought to her work, coupled with her warmth, integrity and commitment to truth-telling, is something all of our students aspire to – no matter what field of study they pursue,” Drinan also said in a statement.

The Gwen Ifill College of Media, Arts, and Humanities will also feature several of the late journalist’s personal effects and papers. About 800 students are expected to enroll in the new college.

After graduating from Simmons, Ifill stayed in Boston and started her career in journalism by joining the newsroom at The Boston Herald-American newspaper. In the ensuing years, she moved onto The Baltimore Evening Sun, The Washington Post and The New York Times, honing her political reporting chops.

Simmons College to name new media and arts program after Gwen Ifill

She then jumped to television, working in the mid-1990s for NBC News. In 1999, she became host of “Washington Week” and a senior correspondent of “The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer.” In 2013, Ifill joined Judy Woodruff as a co-anchor of the NewsHour.

After news of Ifill’s death was made public, fellow journalists, politicians and viewers offered their tributes to the journalist.

Former President Barack Obama also joined in the chorus of remembrances shortly after her death, calling Ifill an “extraordinary journalist.”

“I always appreciated Gwen’s reporting, even when I was at the receiving end of one of her tough and thorough interviews,” he said.