CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) – University North Carolina at Chapel Hill alum and New York Times columnist Frank Bruni was announced Thursday morning as the Tar Heel’s Spring commencement speaker, the UNC Media Relations Department said.
Bruni, a 1986 graduate from UNC, will return to the campus 36 years into a renowned journalism career to address graduates in Kenan Stadium on May 8 at 9 a.m.
Bruni was originally invited to be the speaker at the university’s 2020 commencement, but his invite, like the commencement itself, was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He recorded a video for the virtual ceremony the Tar Heels eventually had, but will be in person this year.
“I definitely did not see myself becoming a Commencement speaker back then,” Bruni said in the news release. “I didn’t have that sense of self yet, but it’s kind of serendipitous.”
Bruni began his journalism career at the university’s paper, The Daily Tar Heel, before going on to earn his master’s from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.
He then was a reporter for the New York Post and then the Detroit Free Press, where he covered the first Persian Gulf War and was named a Pulitzer Prize finalist in feature writing.
Additionally, from 1995-2001 he was a New York Times columnist, White House correspondent and chief restaurant critic. Although now removed from most of that, he still contributes opinion pieces and a weekly newsletter.
“Frank Bruni is one of my favorite writers, and he also happens to be one of (University of North) Carolina’s many esteemed and accomplished alumni. He’s written extensively on higher education, civic engagement and public service, and I believe he is uniquely suited to address our graduates at this critical time,” Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz said. “Since the pandemic prevented him from fulfilling this role as Commencement speaker in 2020, I’m glad he will finally be able to address our graduates as we had envisioned then.”
Bruni is currently the Eugene C. Patterson Professor of the Practice of Journalism and Public Policy at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy.