Attendees at the 2009 Washington and Lee commencement ceremony will remember one of the distinguished personages on the platform, Susan E. Tifft. The acclaimed journalist and educator, who received an honorary degree that day, died yesterday, April 1.
Tifft and her husband, Alex S. Jones (a member of W&L’s Class of 1968), co-wrote two books about journalistic families: The Patriarch: The Rise and Fall of the Bingham Dynasty and The Trust: The Private and Powerful Family Behind the New York Times. She held a joint appointment, with Jones, as Eugene C. Patterson Professor of the Practice of Journalism at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, her undergraduate alma mater. A teaching award in her name will be given for the first time this year at Duke’s commencement.
Tifft’s career included stints at Time magazine, the Federal Election Commission and the Urban Institute in Washington. She held a master’s degree in public administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
It’s easy to see why W&L chose to bestow an honorary degree upon her. The citation read in part: “In our society’s understanding of how to parse the ever-increasing flow of information through news outlets, Tifft is an important voice. She brings to her readers remarkable insight into print and broadcast journalism, and a profound understanding of the media, their owners, and the influences that shape them.”
To read her obituary in the New York Times, see http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/02/business/media/02tifft.html
To read the full text of W&L’s honorary-degree citation for Tifft, see http://www.wlu.edu/x33019.xml