In Memoriam: Gwendolyn Ifill, 1955-2016

gwen-headshotGwen Ifill, the pioneering journalist and recipient of honorary degrees from 20 institutions of higher learning, died on November 14 at a hospice facility in Washington, D.C. She was 61 years old and had suffered from uterine cancer.

Ifill was born in Jamaica, New York, the daughter of immigrants from the Caribbean. She earned a bachelor’s degree in communications at Simmons College in Boston and worked as a reporter for the Boston Herald-American, the Baltimore Evening Sun, the Washington Post and the New York Times.

Her first job in television was for NBC News. She then joined the Public Broadcasting System in 1999 and served as co-anchor of NewHour and moderator of Washington Week. Ifill moderated two vice presidential debates and a primary contest between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.

Ifill was the author of The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama (Doubleday, 2009). Upon her death, President Obama said that Ifill was “an extraordinary journalist; she always kept faith with the fundamental responsibilities of her profession asking tough questions, holding people in power accountable, and defending a strong and free press.”

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