Journalist and human rights advocate Nicholas Kristof to speak at May commencement.

Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Nicholas Kristof is set to be the commencement speaker for the Class of 2020 this spring. During a long career, the New York Times columnist has reported from Tiananmen Square, various conflicts in the Near East and humanitarian crises in Africa, especially in Sudan. 

“Our student committee reflected a deep concern with the most important issues of our time in nominating Nicholas Kristof as our commencement speaker [this] spring,” President David Leebron said. “His work has sought to explore the fundamental challenges affecting human well-being around the globe.” 

 Kristof and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, were the first married couple to win a Pulitzer Prize for journalism in 1990 for covering China’s Tiananmen Square democracy movement. They have co-authored four nonfiction books, two of which inspired PBS documentary programs. Kristof won his second Pulitzer Prize in 2006 for what the prize committee described as “his graphic, deeply reported columns that, at personal risk, focused attention on genocide in Darfur.”  

His commencement address at Rice reflects a special interest in raising student awareness of poverty and social justice issues. Since 2006, The New York Times has sponsored a contest offering college students the opportunity to join Kristof on an international reporting trip. In 2012, he chose Rice engineering student Jordan Schermerhorn to accompany him on a journey to Lesotho, showing her and his readers the economic potential of what he described as “an Africa that is rising.”

The 107th commencement ceremony is scheduled for May 16, 2020.