Alfred University News

Award-winning television journalist Soledad O’Brien to deliver Alfred University commencement keynote

Soledad O'Brien
Soledad O'Brien

Soledad O’Brien, award-winning television journalist, will deliver the keynote address for Alfred University’s 2021 commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 15. The ceremony will be held virtually beginning at 10 a.m.


ALFRED, NY – Soledad O’Brien, award-winning television journalist, will deliver the keynote address for Alfred University’s 2021 commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 15. The ceremony will be held virtually beginning at 10 a.m.

O’Brien hosts and produces the Sunday morning political show, Matter of Fact with Soledad O’Brien and also reports for HBO’s Real Sports. She is founder and CEO of Soledad O’Brien Productions, a documentary production company dedicated to producing empowering untold stories that take a challenging look at often divisive issues of race, class, wealth, opportunity, poverty and personal stories.

O’Brien has anchored and reported for NBC (co-anchoring the news program Weekend Today; contributing reports for the Today Show and NBC Nightly News), MSNBC (anchoring the cable network’s weekend morning show and its technology program, The Site), and CNN (co-anchoring American Morning and Starting Point). She has won numerous awards, including three Emmys while working for CNN (for her coverage of the 2010 Haiti earthquake, the 2012 Presidential election, and a 2013 series titled “Kids and Race”), the George Peabody Award (2005, for coverage of Hurricane Katrina; and 2010, for coverage of BP Gulf Coast oil spill), and an Alfred I DuPont prize (for coverage of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami).

A champion of diversity, O’Brien has given voice to the underserved and disenfranchised through her Emmy-winning reporting and acclaimed documentary series, Black in America and Latino in America. In 2006, Newsweek magazine named her one of the “15 People Who Make America Great.” In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, O’Brien and her husband, Brad Raymond, created the PowHERful Foundation to help young women get to and through college. The foundation hosts the PowHerful conferences that support hundreds of young women with mentoring programs, professional advice and other services.  

O’Brien attended Radcliffe College from 1984-88 (majoring initially in pre-med, the English and American Literature) but left to take a job at WBZ-TV in Boston. She returned to school and earned a degree in English and American Literature from Harvard in 2000. O’Brien and her husband have four children.

Others scheduled to speak during Alfred University’s virtual commencement ceremony include the 2021 Marlin Miller Outstanding Senior Award recipients Holly Passetti and Aanu Adeloye.

Passetti, from Nichols, NY, is a chemistry and biology major (minors in mathematics and biomaterials engineering) who has a cumulative GPA of 4.00. A Dean’s List and Empire 8 President’s List honoree, she is a 2021 American Chemical Society Outstanding Senior award recipient. Holly plans to pursue a Ph.D. in biochemistry, microbiology, and molecular biology from Pennsylvania State University. 

Aanu, from Ile Ife, Osun, Nigeria, double-majors in mechanical engineering and physics, with a minor in mathematics. He has a 3.99 GPA and has been named to the University’s Dean’s List each semester he has been at Alfred University. This fall, he will enroll at the University of Texas-Austin to pursue a Ph.D. in aerospace engineering.

Winners of the Marlin Miller Outstanding Senior Award are chosen based on scholarship, extracurricular achievement, personal character and conduct, and nominations by faculty, students, staff, or alumni. The award was established to honor Alfred University alumnus Marlin Miller ’54, H ’89, H ’19 one of Alfred University’s most generous supporters. Miller has been a member of Alfred University’s Board of Trustees since 1972 and is a former Board chair.

Alfred University will award 280 baccalaureate degrees, 69 master’s degrees and one doctoral degree to graduates who completed their degree requirements in May 2021. The University has already conferred 96 baccalaureate degrees, 18 master’s degrees, and six doctoral degrees to August 2020, December 2020, and 2021 Allen Term (January) graduates.

Graduates from the University’s AU-NYC program—who have earned master’s degrees in School Counseling and Public Administration, or completed Advanced Certification programs in Mental Health Counseling and School Counseling, at satellite campuses in New York City—will be honored in a separate virtual ceremony on June 17 at 5:00 p.m.