Gwen Ifill

Journalist, Television Newscaster and Anchor, and Author

Best known as a successful and much admired television news anchor, Gwen Ifill '77 '93HD (1955–2016) launched her career here at Simmons, where she majored in Communications, wrote for student publications, and interned at local newspapers. 

A Life of Purpose

After graduating from Simmons in 1977 with her degree in Communications, Ifill dedicated herself to print and television journalism for nearly 40 years. She was one of the most successful female African-American news correspondents of all time, holding positions at the New York TimesThe Washington Post, NBC, and PBS. Ifill was known for her accurate and unbiased reporting, not wanting her audience to know her opinions; she wanted to engage them in important issues of the day.

Ifill's work garnered multiple awards, including the highly regarded Peabody Award. In 1993 Simmons presented her with an honorary doctorate—one of 41 she received in her career. While she loved to laugh, her approach to work was simple: "I just take what I do seriously every single day."

"Simmons gave me the opportunity to be a leader, to take charge and express myself." - Gwen Ifill

Expanding the idea of what's possible

A Black woman covering politics, Gwen often found herself overturning stereotypes and breaking new ground. She encouraged the next generation of journalists, advising, "learn lessons from the people who are willing to help and ignore the haters."

Ifill didn't draw attention to being one of the first African-American women to host a network news show, but she relished the idea that she was opening up opportunities for others. She noted, "I'm very keen about the fact that a little girl now, watching the news, when they see me and Judy [Woodruff] sitting side by side, it will occur to them that that's perfectly normal—that it won't seem like any big breakthrough at all."

A voice of integrity

Genuinely curious, quietly confident, and always prepared, Ifill became a skilled interviewer. "The challenge," she once said, "is to be smarter and more thorough but not to bore people to death."

One of the reasons Ifill moved to PBS mid-career was to spend a little more time on stories and avoid sensationalism. Her fair, accurate, and thoughtful reporting grew an audience that looked to her as a trusted voice in a changing media landscape.

"I always appreciated Gwen's reporting, even when I was at the receiving end of one of her tough and thorough interviews" - President Barack Obama

Nurturing the next generation

After Ifill's death, voices across the internet spoke about her importance as a mentor and inspiration. An Associated Press editor recalled that early in her career she ventured up to Ifill, who encouraged her and said: "You can do this."

Ifill had a gift for friendship as well as reporting. "You could read by the light of her smile," journalist John Dickerson noted, "And if you could make her laugh that was a prize. The sound of pure joy."

"Simmons was a launching pad for Gwen and prepared her well. She graduated thoroughly grounded in the liberal arts and sciences, and well-prepared professionally to embark on her journalism career, and it all started at Simmons."— Dr. Roberto Ifill


  • BA, 1977
  • HD, 1993

Program(s) of Study

Gwen Ifill Continues to Make an Impact on Simmons Students

Carla Bamaca ’24

Ifill Scholar Carla Bamaca ’24 on the Impact of Visual Storytelling

Ifill Scholar Carla Bamaca shares her passion for filmmaking and storytelling to inspire change.

Photo of Ifill Scholar - Anek Yen ’24

Ifill Scholar Anek Yen ’24 Finds her Passion in Arts Administration from a PR Perspective

Congratulations to Anek Yen '24, recipient of the Ifill Scholarship! We spoke with Anek about how she plans to use her PR skills to support her passion for art and art museums. What are you studying at Simmons? I'm studying...

Kate Farrell

How the Ifill Forum Gave Kate Farrell ’23 Hope for Democracy

Kate Farrell ’23 fills us in on participating in the Ifill Forum and how alumna Gwen Ifill's legacy is felt in the Simmons classroom.

Headshot of Yasmeen Ibrahim

Breaking Through the Glass Ceiling of Exclusivity with Yasmeen Ibrahim '22

Congratulations to Yasmeen Ibrahim '22, recipient of the Ifill Scholarship! We spoke with Yasmeen about her passion for design and her ambition to elevate her community by shining a positive light on her traditions and values.

Headshot of Abrielle Cunningham

I'm Going to do Amazing Things: Abrielle Cunningham '23 on the Ifill Scholarship

Congratulations to Abrielle Cunningham '23, recipient of the Ifill Scholarship! Learn more about Abrielle's ambitions and how she hopes to do amazing things, just like Gwen Ifill.

Headshot of Melody Tuan

Melody Tuan ’22: The Ifill Scholarship is a Chance to Carry on Gwen Ifill’s Legacy

Congratulations to Melody Tuan '22, recipient of the Ifill Scholarship! Melody shares why she loves the Simmons community and the unimaginable power of Simmons students.

Livic Iona sitting in a cafe

Thinking Critically and Creatively: Livic Inoa '22 Combines Computer Science and Philosophy

Congratulations to Livic Inoa '22, recipient of the Ifill Scholarship! Learn more about Livic's journey to Simmons and the many influential professors that have helped along the way.

Headshot of Ganad Neka

Ganad Neka '23: I Want to Make an Impression on the World as Gwen Ifill Did

Congratulations to Ganad Neka '23, recipient of the Ifill Scholarship! Read how Ganad hopes to be an inspiration to immigrants and refugees who have had similar experiences to hers.