Pulitzer Prize- and Emmy Award-winning alumnus addresses CCCA graduates

Pulitzer Prize- and Emmy Award-winning alumnus addresses CCCA graduates

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Trymaine Lee delivers keynote address during the CCCA's Commencement program.
Trymaine Lee delivers keynote address during the CCCA's Commencement program.

Alumnus Trymaine Lee, a Pulitzer Prize- and Emmy Award-winning journalist, addressed graduates of the College of Communication & Creative Arts Wednesday advising them, as they embark on life and careers, to be mindful of the “five W’s.”

By that he did not mean the “who, what, where, when and why” of journalism.

The five W’s he spoke of during Commencement were “worth” (as in knowing one’s self-worth), “work” (as in you better be willing to work hard if you want to make it), the “will” to succeed, “wonder,” and “win.”

Lee, whose meteoric career as a print, online and television journalist began as a reporter with The Whit, continued at The Times-Picayune newspaper in New Orleans (where he won a Pulitzer Prize covering Hurricane Katrina), The New York Times, the Huffington Post and, now, MSNBC, where last year he won an Emmy for reporting on Chicago gun violence.

 “Win at all costs, but not in the way you may think,” counseled Lee, a 2003 graduate with a degree in journalism who delivered the CCCA’s keynote address.

Returning to his alma mater, Lee spoke as a man who knows something about lessons learned. A competitive high school athlete who started college on a football scholarship in Pennsylvania, he said distractions off-field caused him to perform badly his freshmen year and forced him home to South Jersey. Once home, he re-committed to his education and earned his degree from Rowan.

“There are no losses,” Lee said. “You either win or you learn. And as long as you’re learning, you’re winning.”

In recognition of his great success, Rowan honored Lee with a Medal of Excellence for Alumni Achievement.

The morning program on Rowan’s expansive University Green, the first of the week after heavy rains forced Monday and Tuesday ceremonies indoors, awarded degrees to approximately 420 participants.

“Finally, after six previous ceremonies, we have sunshine!” beamed Rowan President Ali Houshmand.

Around the Green, students were beaming too.

Devin Merceron, a Communication Studies major from Lacey Township, said he’d apply his education in a non-traditional sense to a career.

“I’m getting into real estate,” Merceron said, noting that his studies gave him a deep understanding of the mechanics of communication. “I can certainly hold a conversation. And hopefully sell a house.”

Ajile Weldon-Lively of Egg Harbor Township, who graduated with a degree in Radio, Television & Film, said the first step along her career path will be creating a podcast this summer.

“Then I’ll head to the city to launch my career,” she said. “I’ll probably start somewhere as a production assistant, work hard and find my way.”