UC Merced Lands Acclaimed Broadcast Journalist as Speaker for Commencement 2010

Lester Holt of TODAY and NBC Nightly News weekend editions accepts invitation to speak at May graduation ceremony

MERCED, Calif. — The University of California, Merced, has selected veteran TV journalist Lester Holt of NBC to deliver the keynote address at Commencement 2010.

Holt is no stranger to UC Merced. He visited the campus last spring to interview students about the successful campaign to woo First Lady Michelle Obama as the keynote speaker for UC Merced's inaugural class of graduates. He spent a few days in the area, getting acquainted with both the community and university students.

Holt's background suits the pioneering spirit of UC Merced's graduates and students. Raised in Rancho Cordova, he earned his bachelor's degree in government from California State University, Sacramento, and has worked in the broadcast journalism field since the early 1980s.

"We are honored that a journalist of Mr. Holt's caliber has agreed to inspire the Class of 2010 during their commencement exercise next May," said Chancellor Steve Kang."His Valley upbringing makes him an expert on the rich fabric of our region, and his globe-trotting pursuits as a journalist give him the perspective necessary to prepare our graduates for the global front."

Holt has traveled the world as a war correspondent, reporting from many of the world's centers of crisis. In 2006, he reported from the front lines in Lebanon on the war between Israel and Hezbollah. He reported on the terror threat to U.S. bound-airliners from the UK in London. In 2005, Holt was on the ground for Hurricane Katrina covering events both in Louisiana and Mississippi, and later that fall covered Hurricane Rita in Texas.

Holt is the weekend anchor for the flagship broadcast NBC Nightly News, and is also the co-anchor of the weekend edition of TODAY. Holt also serves as fill-in anchor and correspondent for NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams and the weekday TODAY program. He also contributes to MSNBC, NBC's 24-hour cable news network.

Every year, the Chancellor's Cabinet is responsible for selecting and inviting the keynote speaker. In addition, a graduation committee of students meets to plan end-of-the year activities and to select the class gift and student speaker. This year's jumpstart in choosing the keynote speaker represents the wishes of students to have a confirmed guest before the spring semester when event planning must begin in earnest.

"Having someone selected this far in advance gives our committee more time to plan and greater flexibility," said Sarah Hasemyan, who co-chairs the events and activities sub-committee. "It's important to us that our ceremony reflects the Class of 2010 and celebrates its achievements."

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