An esteemed journalist and broadcaster whose work has informed national conversations on issues of defense, foreign policy, the #MeToo movement, and more, Mary Louise Kelly ’93 will be the featured speaker for the second annual Harvard Alumni Day — the Harvard Alumni Association’s University-wide, global event honoring alumni impact, citizenship, and community. The celebration will be held in Harvard Yard on June 2 and will be simultaneously livestreamed for those who cannot attend in person.
“Mary Louise is an inspired choice for Harvard Alumni Day. She is deeply committed to her work and to its meaning and value in a democratic society,” said President Larry Bacow. “She has expanded the perspectives of countless people over decades of reporting in the United States and elsewhere. We are delighted to have enticed her away from her desk and back to Harvard. I look forward to hearing her remarks.”
Kelly is widely recognized as one of the most prominent voices in American journalism. As NPR’s first intelligence correspondent and co-host of its award-winning flagship program, “All Things Considered,” she has reported on some of the world’s most complex and pressing geopolitical challenges. Whether covering a war zone or interviewing world leaders, she has earned a reputation for incisive and nuanced reporting that is informed by her deep knowledge and understanding of the topic at hand. John Lansing, NPR’s chief executive, has praised her as “one of the most respected, truthful, factual, professional, and ethical journalists in the United States.”
Kelly led the NPR team that was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2021 for its on-the-ground reporting from Iran. She has also received numerous other awards for her work, including the Leonard Zeidenberg First Amendment Award and a Gracie Award.
“Mary Louise Kelly embodies the spirit of intellectual curiosity that drives so many Harvard alumni to make a difference throughout their lives,” said HAA President Allyson Mendenhall ’90, M.L.A. ’99. “Her reporting and on-air storytelling have touched the hearts and minds of countless people around the world — lending her a unique perspective to both the opportunities and challenges we all face as a global community. I know her words will resonate deeply with her fellow alumni and remind us just how powerful our impact can be.”
“It’s an honor, obviously, and a pleasure,” said Kelly. “But it’s also a little daunting.” Yet, this moment holds great personal significance for Kelly, who spoke of her late father, Jim Kelly, a member of the Harvard College Class of 1968 who would be celebrating his 55th reunion this spring. “He never missed a reunion, and neither have I. And I think, ‘Well, Dad would be interested in what I have to say, so maybe his classmates and other alumni will too.’”
While touring Lamont Library recently, Kelly reflected fondly on the many mornings she spent reading French literature there as an undergraduate and the deep connection she felt with the generations who studied there before her. “I just loved feeling part of that line of scholars who tackled texts while sitting in the same leather chair that I was sitting in, sipping coffee and feeling very lucky to be there.”
Sharing the Harvard experience with her father was particularly meaningful to Kelly. “It was life-changing for him to come out of a public school in Idaho in the 1960s and get a Harvard education and then go on to Harvard Law School. To see his daughter grow up and be able to follow in his footsteps was a joy for our whole family.”