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Helen Thomas

Hearst Newspapers

Recipient of the 2009 Award for Commentary

Ms. Helen Thomas, “The First Lady of the Press,” has had a remarkable career in journalism, starting with her first byline in the student newspaper at Detroit’s Eastern High School. After graduating from Wayne State University, she became a "Copy Girl" at the former Washington Daily News, and was later promoted to "Cub Reporter:' Her 57-year association with United Press International began in 1943, when she was hired as a News-writer, where for 12 years she wrote radio news; later assignments included reporting on the federal government, particularly the FBI and Capitol Hill. She was assigned to the White House in 1961, and in 1974 was promoted to Chief White House Correspondent, a position she held until 2000. She is currently a columnist for Hearst Newspapers.

Helen Thomas has been a trailblazer for women journalists, reporting on every American President since John F. Kennedy. She was the first woman to be Chief White House Correspondent for a major news service. Ms. Thomas was the only woman print journalist who traveled with President Nixon, when he made his historic 1972 trip to the People's Republic of China. She was the first woman elected as an officer of the National Press Club, following its admission of women as members in 1971. In 1975, she became the first woman member of the Gridiron Club, and was elected President in 1993. She was also the first woman officer of the White House Correspondents Association, and its first woman President.

Ms. Thomas has received numerous awards and honors, throughout her distinguished career. In 1985, she was inducted as a Fellow of the Society of Professional Journalists. In 1998, she received the "International Women's Media Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award.” In 2000, the White House Correspondents Association honored her with the creation of the "Helen Thomas Lifetime Achievement Award.” She was the first recipient. In 2003, Ms. Thomas received the "Spirit of Humanity Award" from the American Arab Institute Foundation. In 2007, she was presented with The Washington Press Foundation's "Lifetime Award.” The World Almanac has cited her as one of the "25 Most Influential Women in America.” Helen Thomas is a most sought after speaker at colleges and universities. Her presentation, The Time Has Come, was a highlight of Siena College's 2005 First Woman President Symposium. Helen Thomas has written four books: Dateline: White House (1975); Front Row at the White House: My Life and Times (1999); Thanks for the Memories, Mr. President: Wit and Wisdom from the Front Row at the White House (2002); and her latest, Watchdogs of Democracy?: The Waning Washington Press Corps and How it has Failed the Public (2006). She is also the co-author of The White House Press on the Presidency: News Management and Co-Option (1983).

In recognition of her many contributions to journalism, Siena College awards Helen Thomas, "The First Lady of the Press,” the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters.

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