When Christiane Amanpour takes over from Charlie Rose on Monday night, she’ll be assuming one of the highest profile positions in journalism. It’s a long way from Kingston, Rhode Island, where the famed CNN foreign correspondent received her first formal journalism training as an undergrad at the University of Rhode Island. The newly-minted PBS late night interview host graduated from URI, summa cum laude, in 1983.
“Certainly Christiane is the perfect pick to fill in on PBS, but could you imagine anyone better?” said Adam Roth, an associate dean and the director of the Harrington School of Communication and Media at URI. “She is the quintessential reporter, interviewer, journalist, and anchor, with an incredibly strong understanding of global politics and cultural affairs.”
Amanpour, who grew up in London and Iran, came to URI after fleeing the Iranian Revolution. She already knew she wanted to be a journalist.
“I was old enough to be just amazed by what was happening around me and to decide in that moment that I wanted to tell those stories to the world,” Amanpour recently told David Axelord while appearing on his podcast. “And I thought, ‘oh, well that’s journalism.’ And, oh, I think I want to do television because I had heard of Barbara Walters. And I think I want to go to America, because that’s the place to go if you have a dream, if you want to work hard, if you want to make your career your life.”
She chose URI because she couldn’t afford Brown University or Boston University, where her Iranian friends were attending college, Amanpour told Axelrod.
“I didn’t have the money to go to an Ivy League,” she said. “Luckily someone helped me get into the University of Rhode Island. They had a journalism school, which was great. I loved it. I consider Rhode Island my home state away from home. I made great friends. I couldn’t have had a better experience. I adored my U.S. university experience.”
Amanpour lived in Providence when she attended URI, and one year she shared a house with John F. Kennedy Jr., a friend who was a student at Brown at the time. According to Biography.com, she worked for WJAR and WBRU before taking a job at a start up cable station called CNN, where she ended up covering the world. Here first big scoop came reporting on Iran in 1985. She became a household name in 1990 when she volunteered to cover the Iraq War.
“I only got it because the more senior guys didn’t want it,” she said, noting she covered the action with an all-female crew from CNN. “I was like a terrier snapping at the heels of my foreign editor. So I went and for me the rest was history.”
Amanpour became one of the most recognizable war correspondents in the world. She would go on to become a reporter for 60 Minutes, as well. But she never forgot about the University of Rhode Island. She’s been a board member at URI’s Harrington School since its inception in 2009 and she helps fund the Harrington School’s annual Christiane Amanpour Lecture in International Journalism.
“Christiane has really cemented her relationship in the Harrington School by endowing the Annual Christiane Amanpour Lecture in International Journalism that allows us to bring in a leader in the Journalism field every year for a special presentation,” Roth said. “This year we featured Steve Adler, President and Editor-in-Chief of Reuters, the international news agency that reaches a billion people every day. Christiane, in fact, had recommended Steve to be a speaker, and boy was she right about that. Christiane continues to contribute financially to the growth of this endowment.”
Amanpour does more for URI than just cut checks. “She has also recently met while in Boston with me and an undergraduate student and offered the student personalized advice and guidance for pursuing her journalism career,” Roth said.
Amanpour isn’t the only nationally-known journalist to first study the craft at URI. John King, also of CNN, graduated in 1985. Adam Wiener, an executive vice president at CBS news, graduated in 1987. Tom Farragher, class of 1977, is an editor and columnist for the Boston Globe and was on the Spotlight team that exposed the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal. (This reporter graduated from URI in 1997.)