Ann Curry accepting Oregon History Maker award

photo courtesy of the Oregon Historical Society

Ann Curry, BA ’78, a famous news journalist and University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication (SOJC) graduate, was recently named part of the Oregon History Makers class of 2015. Curry was recognized for her professional success in the journalism industry, which includes network morning and evening news show at NBC news, extensive coverage of international disasters, and exclusive interviews with foreign leaders.

According to the Oregon Historical Society, the History Makers Dinner celebrates the very best of Oregon and those who have helped define the state. Furthermore, History Makers are contemporary individuals who have made a significant impact in their field of work or service during their lifetime. These individuals, all with ties to Oregon, are making history through scientific discovery and exploration, innovation in business, communications, the arts, or service in their communities. Curry is among other distinguished winners including Peggy Fowler and George Puentes. Other SOJC alums have been named Oregon History Makers in past years, including Harry Glickman, BA ’48, who was honored in 2012.

Curry is the eldest of five siblings and the daughter of a Japanese immigrant mother and career military father. Curry moved to Oregon with her family, attended Ashland High School, and graduated from the SOJC in 1978. During 25-plus years in the news industry, Curry has become one of the most respected and successful broadcast journalists in the nation and has received multiple Emmy awards for her accomplishments throughout her career.

At the Oregon History Makers dinner, Curry delivered a powerful acceptance speech that outlined her life journey and the role that Oregon played in shaping her professional success. Curry shared that she was “deeply touched” to be named an Oregon History Maker.

Curry specifically addressed her time at the SOJC and the impact it’s had on her life during her speech; “I am here because the University of Oregon, the only college I applied to, said yes, and offered me work study jobs that had me making maps for the forest service, and sandwiches and coffee in the student union. I am here because wonderful journalism professors [Roy Paul] Nelson and [Ken] Metzler really encouraged me. I am what happens when Oregon invests in its young people. I am because of Oregon. We are because of each other. And I thank you.”

Watch the tribute video of Curry.

Curry’s full acceptance speech:

I am deeply touched…though to be completely honest, I am not sure exactly how I feel about being now considered “historical.” A member of my family has suggested that you can only get this honor if you are getting old, and so on that note, I congratulate my fellow honorees.

Actually, I really do congratulate them. This is a big honor and I hope you allow me to accept on behalf of my family, with gratitude to my husband Brian, who is proof that your choice in a spouse is the most important decision for your career…

…and to my children Walker and Mac, who have more than anyone, inspired me to work for a better world…

..and my sister Lola and two of her children and some dear friends, all of whom have a part of this honor, and are here tonight. Would you join me in applauding them?

I am standing here because when my immigrant mother, and career military father, who lived pay check to paycheck, moved here with 5 children, Ashland, Oregon opened her arms. 

I am here because Ashland happened to have a wonderful high school, supported by the community, culturally and financially, where teachers including Hattie Converse, who taught literature and John Tredway, who taught debate, pushed us to learn. In fact it was Mrs. Converse who insisted I apply for college, which was a big deal because no one in my family had ever graduated from college.

I am here because the Carpenter Foundation in Southern Oregon gave me a grant to help me afford my college tuition. It still gives scholarships. 

I am here because the University of Oregon, the only college I applied to, said yes, and offered me work study jobs that had me making maps for the forest service, and sandwiches and coffee in the student union. Even so, I didn’t know from semester to semester whether I could afford to graduate.

I am here because wonderful journalism professors Nelson and Metzler really encouraged me.

But I wasn’t special. I was not even an exceptional student.

If there is anything you take away from my remarks tonight, I hope it is this:

I am what happens when Oregon invests in its young people. 

It doesn’t just help them in their careers. It’s good for the state, the nation and the world.

In Africa, there is a word that reminds me of how we think in Oregon. The word is “Umbutu,” which means, “I am because you are.” 

I am because you are. I am because of Oregon. 

We are because of each other.

And I thank you.

Story by Nicole Rideout ’16