Lester Holt

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2020 Commencement Speaker

Doctor of Humane Letters

Rutgers is proud to bestow upon Lester Holt an honorary doctorate of humane letters. Holt is an award-winning journalist and anchor of NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, the network’s flagship broadcast, and Dateline NBC. Holt also leads NBC News’ special reports, breaking news, and prime time political coverage.

Recently coined the “most trusted television news personality in America” (Hollywood Reporter/Morning Consult poll), Holt was named NBC Nightly News anchor in 2015 after eight years as anchor of NBC Nightly News weekend editions and 12 years as co-anchor of Weekend TODAY. In addition, Holt has served as principal anchor of Dateline NBC since 2011.

Holt has spent the past four decades in journalism and has reported and anchored from break­ing news events across the globe, including from inside Tehran, Iran, during a critical moment in the world last year and from the Korean Peninsula on the growing tensions between the United States and North Korea just before the 2018 Winter Olympics. Most recently, Holt has led NBS News’ coverage of the coronavirus, anchoring weekly prime time specials featuring critical, real-time information on the pandemic. He also launched Nightly News: Kids Edition, a digital newscast aimed to inform and educate children during these difficult times.

One of Holt’s trademarks is his on-the-ground reporting and his deep commitment to pro­viding viewers with first-person accounts when disaster and tragedy strike. Recently, he covered the massive Southern California wildfires and also reported on mass shootings from El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio.

Holt was selected to moderate the first presidential debate of 2016, which was the most watched debate in American history. In 2017, Holt also sat down with President Trump to conduct one of the most consequential interviews of his presidency, after Trump told Holt the firing of for­mer FBI head James Comey was tied to the Russia investigation. He traveled with President Obama on his final trip aboard Air Force One for an in-depth interview the same year. Holt was recently a co-moderator for the first Democratic debate in the 2020 election cycle, which was also the most watched Democratic debate ever.

Holt has distinguished himself as the leading broadcast journalist on criminal justice reform. In 2019, he led a groundbreaking series Justice for All across all NBC News platforms. Holt spent three days embedded inside Louisiana State Penitentiary, the largest maximum-security prison in America, and moderated the first-ever televised town hall from a maximum-security prison at Sing Sing. The series put a bright spotlight on the many complex issues around mass incarceration.

Before becoming co-anchor of Weekend TODAY in 2003, Holt anchored Lester Holt Live on MSNBC and served as a primary anchor for MSNBC’s coverage of major news events. Holt has been recognized with numerous honors, including multiple Emmy Awards and a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism award. In 2019, he was honored with the prestigious Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism. Two years prior in 2017, he was honored with Quinnipiac University’s Fred Friendly First Amendment Award. In 2016, Holt received several notable designa­tions: he was featured on TIME’s 100 Most Influential People list and The Hollywood Reporter’s Most Powerful People in New York list and was named “Journalist of the Year” by the National Association of Black Journalists.