PBS' Gwen Ifill to speak March 31 as Mary Louise Smith Chair in Women and Politics

AMES, Iowa -- Gwen Ifill, the moderator and managing editor of "Washington Week" and senior correspondent for "The PBS NewsHour," will visit Iowa State University on Thursday, March 31, as the spring 2011 Mary Louise Smith Chair in Women and Politics. Her visit is also part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Celebration at Iowa State.

As part of her visit, Ifill will present a public lecture titled, "Politics, Policy and the Reality of Leadership," at 7:30 p.m. in the Sun Room of Memorial Union. Following this public presentation, she will sign copies of her 2009 book, "The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama."

"We are excited to bring Gwen Ifill to campus as the Mary Louise Smith Chair, particularly in the current political climate that is too often characterized by incivility and disrespect for different points of view," said Dianne Bystrom, director of ISU's Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics, which organizes and hosts the visits of the Mary Louise Smith chairs. "Ifill is known for her neutrality and politeness in managing discussions among guests with conflicting points of view."

Ifill joined both "Washington Week" and "The PBS NewsHour" in 1999, interviewing newsmakers and reporting on issues ranging from foreign affairs to U.S. policy and politics. She has covered six presidential campaigns and moderated vice presidential debates in 2004 and 2008.

Before joining PBS, she worked as the chief congressional and political correspondent for NBC News, White House correspondent for The New York Times, and as a local and national political reporter for The Washington Post. She also reported for the Baltimore Evening Sun and the Boston Herald American.

A native of New York City, Ifill is a graduate of Simmons College in Boston. She has received more than a dozen honorary doctorates. Ifill also has been honored for her work by the Radio and Television News Directors Association, Harvard University's Joan Shorenstein Center, the National Association of Black Journalists and Boston's Ford Hall Forum. She was included in Ebony magazine's list of the 150 Most Influential African Americans.

Ifill serves on the boards of the Harvard University Institute of Politics and the Committee to Protect Journalists. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Ifill is the 21st prominent woman leader to visit Iowa State as the Mary Louise Smith Chair in Women and Politics, which was established in 1995 to honor the Iowa native regarded as one of the nation's most respected female political leaders. Smith was the only woman to chair the Republican National Party (1974-77). The chair established in her name brings a prominent public leader, scholar or activist to the Iowa State campus each year.

In addition to the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics, Ifill's visit is co-sponsored and supported by the Black Graduate Student Association, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, College of Design, College of Engineering, College of Human Sciences, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Miller Lecture Fund, Women's Leadership Consortium, Women's Studies Program and the Committee on Lectures, which is funded by the Government of the Student Body.

Additional information on the Mary Louise Smith Chair in Women in Politics, including a complete list of past speakers, is available online.