EAST LANSING, Mich. — Award-winning journalist Dan Rather is best known as the former anchorman of the CBS Evening News, after taking over for Walter Cronkite in 1981. Rather is the current host of Dan Rather Reports, on HDNet. He addressed advanced degree graduates inside the Breslin Center at Michigan State University on Friday evening. The special ceremony was for doctoral and master’s degree graduates only. Rather received an honorary degree from MSU in the category of humanities.
Rather grew up in Houston and received a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Sam Houston State University where he served as the editor of the school newspaper, The Houstonian. He was a member of Caballeros, the founding organization of the Epsilon Psi chapter of the Sigma Chi fraternity. Later, Rather attended the South Texas College of Law, which awarded him an honorary Juris Doctor degree in 1990.
“I hope you take your full and deserved measure of satisfaction in what you have achieved through force of will, perseverance and no doubt predacious qualities of caffeine,” said Rather in his commencement address. “After all this work, I can imagine it must be at the least disconcerting to be taking your hard-earned degrees into the worst job market in a generation. A situation which I certainly don’t have to tell you extends very much to academia as well. The financial crisis has wreaked havoc on state funding of public universities and endowments of private institutions.”
The former CBS News anchorman spoke about the future of journalism in a special press conference prior to the ceremony. “Well, I’m an optimist by experience and by nature. I think it’s very clear even those outside of journalism certainly those of us in journalism that American journalism is in a state of crisis. Crisis can be an overworked word. Particularly newspapers. That’s not a good thing for journalism. More importantly, it’s not a good thing for the United States of America. A truly independent press is the red beating heart of a free democratic people.
“Although we’ve had in my lifetime, the rise of radio, the rise of television, more recently the rise of the internet. The bedrock of American journalism is in print. It has been for a long time. It’s in the process of changing. What we’re losing with each newspaper closing, with each cutting back of newspapers who are staggering but alive are cutting back of resources. Cutting back on the grunts, the boots on the ground kind of reporters who make telephone calls, knock on doors, hang out in the rain after so many hearings, those kinds of things. Both in television and in radio, and the internet, they all feed to a very large degree off the resources of newspapers. So we’re losing that. I hope the public at large understands.”
Rather received an honorary degree from MSU in the category of humanities. The MSU Wind Symphony provided the music during the ceremony. David J. Theis, a senior in the College of Music, performed the Star-Spangled Banner.
“Our graduates have reached a milestone and we’re here to celebrate their milestone and acknowledge their contributions to this great university,” said MSU President Dr. Lou Anna Simon. “Graduate education demands many special personal qualities, intelligence, originality and hard work, among them. This is truly a day of celebration for our graduates, their families and friends and for Michigan State University. We’ve gathered to recognize your accomplishments and look ahead to your future opportunities.”
Joel I. Ferguson, Chairperson of the MSU Board of Trustees, made the introduction and opening remarks to the graduates. “As trustees, we see the advanced degree ceremony as a memorable occasion and we’re gratefully honored to share it with you. You have engaged in important research to investigate vital issues and generate new knowledge of understanding. We welcome you to the Spartan family as traditions of excellence service to make the world a better place. Please accept our congratulations and best wishes.”
This year’s advanced degree ceremony took place inside the Breslin Student Events Center.