Famous reporter to be honored

Shawntaye Hopkins

Helen Thomas ended her questions with the phrase, “Thank you, Mr. President.”

Now she may be saying thank you to Western.

The Board of Regents will consider at Friday’s meeting a recommendation to award an honorary doctorate to retired news correspondent Helen Thomas at the December commencement.

Thomas, a native of Winchester, became widely known in the 1960s as a member of the White House Press Corps, representing United Press International.

Thomas has covered every president from John F. Kennedy to Bill Clinton.

President Gary Ransdell said he made the recommendation after James Baker, a distinguished professor of history, mentioned Thomas’ name to him last year.

“She’s been one of the nation’s premiere journalists for the last 50 years,” Ransdell said. “She’s also been been an observer of much of our nation’s history for the last 50 years.”

Baker is on the University’s Honorary Doctorate Review Committee.

He said Thomas’ name was mentioned at several meetings, but no one ever contacted her.

Finally, he found her e-mail address and sent her a message asking if she’d be interested in the honor, Baker said. Getting a positive response, Baker passed contact information along to Ransdell, who formerly offered the doctorate to Thomas.

Jo-Ann Albers, the former director of the School of Journalism and Broadcasting, said Thomas deserves all of her accolades.

“I think she is irreverant in the good sense,” she said. “She is not afraid to ask tough questions. She’s not intimidated by authority.”

Albers said she also has very high ethical standards.

Baker said the committee offers one or two honorary doctorates every year.

He said they are usually given to people associated with Western, but this is an exception.

“Part of it is being born here and being so successful for so many years,” Baker said. “I think she’d be a good inspiration to our students.”

Reach Shawntaye Hopkins at [email protected]