April 12, 2023

Vice Admiral Vivek H. Murthy, Judy Woodruff of 'PBS NewsHour' to receive honorary degrees

The U.S. surgeon general and one of the first two women to co-anchor a national news broadcast will be the official speakers at Arizona State University’s spring 2023 commencement.

Broadcast journalist Judy Woodruff will speak at the graduate ceremony the morning of Monday, May 8, at Desert Financial Arena. That evening, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy will deliver the keynote at the undergraduate ceremony at Sun Devil Stadium, where both will receive honorary degrees from ASU.

Some 19,613 students — a 5% increase from spring 2022 — will graduate that day, earning 20,401 degrees. Of the overall total of students, more than 13,000 are undergraduates and over 6,000 are graduate students. About 9,500 are Arizona students, and nearly 6,000 are ASU Online students. 

“Judy Woodruff and Vice Admiral Vivek Murthy are pioneers in their respective fields and dedicated leaders whose lives and work mirror our institutional ideals,” ASU President Michael M. Crow said. “We are excited to welcome them to Arizona and to honor their important contributions to the health, education and awareness of our nation.”

Veteran journalist to speak at graduate ceremony

Woodruff is the senior correspondent for “PBS NewsHour,” after serving for 11 years as its anchor and managing editor. During 2023 and 2024, she is undertaking a reporting project, “America at a Crossroads,” to better understand the country’s political divide. She has covered politics and other news for more than four decades at CNN, NBC and PBS.

“I am thrilled to be receiving an honorary degree from Arizona State University, one of the nation’s largest and most impactful institutions of higher learning,” Woodruff said. “This New American University, as President Crow has described it, is an engine of creativity and innovation in this modern era, sending tens of thousands of students into the world every year, ready to tackle the hardest problems facing this generation, and generations to come.

“I look forward to sharing some thoughts with students earning graduate degrees this year, in many different disciplines, to remind them of how much we are counting on them to make the world a better place (especially at this deeply divided political moment).”

The recipient of numerous awards — including the Peabody Journalistic Integrity Award, the Poynter Medal, an Emmy for Lifetime Achievement and the Radcliffe Medal — she and the late Gwen Ifill were together awarded ASU’s Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism after Woodruff and Ifill were named co-anchors of “PBS NewsHour” in 2013, marking the first time an American national news broadcast would be co-anchored by two women.

Journalists Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff interview President Obama for PBS Newshour

Co-anchors Judy Woodruff (right) and Gwen Ifill interview President Barack Obama in an Aug. 28, 2013, broadcast of "PBS Newshour." Woodruff has covered politics and other news for more than four decades, including multiple stints as White House correspondent for several news organizations. Photo courtesy Judy Woodruff

For 12 years, Woodruff served as anchor and senior correspondent for CNN, where her duties included anchoring the weekday program “Inside Politics.” Her other accomplishments include serving as the chief Washington correspondent for “The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour” from 1983–93, anchoring PBS’ award-winning weekly documentary series “Frontline With Judy Woodruff” from 1984–90, working as White House correspondent for NBC News from 1977–82 and serving as NBC’s “Today” show chief Washington correspondent for a year after that.

Woodruff is a founding co-chair of the International Women’s Media Foundation, an organization dedicated to promoting and encouraging women in communication industries worldwide. She serves on the boards of trustees of the Freedom Forum and The Duke Endowment. Formerly she was a trustee of the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Urban Institute, and a member of The Knight Foundation Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics.

Woodruff is a graduate of Duke University, where she is a trustee emerita.

U.S. surgeon general to speak at undergraduate event

Dr. Murthy has served in his current role for two administrations — first as the 19th surgeon general of the United States under President Barack Obama and currently as the 21st, under President Joe Biden. And as the vice admiral of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, Murthy commands a uniformed service of over 6,000 dedicated public health officers, serving the most underserved and vulnerable populations domestically and abroad.  

Official portrait of U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy

Vice Admiral Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, who has served as U.S. surgeon general under two presidents, is the first person of Indian descent to hold that role and the youngest active-duty flag officer in federal uniformed service. Photo courtesy Vivek Murthy

While serving as the 21st surgeon general, Murthy is focused on drawing attention to and working across government to address a number of critical public health issues, including the growing proliferation of health misinformation, the ongoing youth mental health crisis, well-being and burnout in the health worker community, and social isolation and loneliness. Additionally, he serves as a key advisor to Biden’s COVID-19 pandemic response operation.  

During his previous tenure under Obama, Murthy — the first surgeon general of Indian descent and the youngest active-duty flag officer in federal uniformed service — helped lead the national response to a range of health challenges, including the Ebola and Zika viruses, the opioid crisis, and the growing threat of stress and loneliness to Americans’ physical and mental well-being. In 2016, he issued the first Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs and Health, in which he challenged the nation to expand access to prevention and treatment, and to recognize addiction as a chronic illness, not a character flaw.   

Before entering government service, Murthy co-founded VISIONS, a global HIV/AIDS education organization; the Swasthya Project, a rural health partnership that trained women in South India to become community health workers and educators; TrialNetworks, a technology company dedicated to improving collaboration and efficiency in clinical trials; and Doctors for America, a nonprofit mobilizing physicians and medical students to improve access to affordable care. His scientific research has focused on vaccine development and the participation of women and minorities in clinical trials. 

Raised in Miami, Murthy received his Bachelor of Arts from Harvard, his MD from the Yale School of Medicine and his Master of Business Administration from the Yale School of Management.

The undergraduate and graduate ceremonies are part of a weeklong celebration of ASU’s newest graduates, running May 6–12. Find the schedule, including individual college and special-interest convocations, at graduation.asu.edu.

Top photo: Student veterans stand to be recognized and honored at ASU's undergraduate graduation ceremony Dec. 12, 2022, at Sun Devil Stadium on the Tempe campus. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News