School of Communication Commencement Address
Candidate for the Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters
Senior White House Correspondent, CBS News
From the moment he graduated from Loyola University Chicago in 1959, Bill Plante (BS ’59) has embraced the Ignatian credo “Go forth and set the world on fire.” The Emmy Award–winning reporter has been with CBS News for more than 50 years, covering every presidential campaign from 1968 to 2012. Plante is the senior White House correspondent, and his reports are seen regularly on CBS This Morning and the CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley.
Early in his career, Plante reported on the civil rights movement in Mississippi and Alabama, including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s historic march from Selma to Montgomery. As a foreign correspondent, he covered the Vietnam War four times between 1964 and 1975.
Plante uses his journalistic skills to expose the truth, investigate critical issues in government, and give a voice to the voiceless. He has been based in the CBS News Washington bureau since December 1976. His first White House assignment came in 1981 when he covered the Reagan presidency. During the George Bush administration, he covered the State Department and then the Bill Clinton campaign. He returned to covering the White House at the beginning of the Clinton presidency in 1993 and has remained there since.
During the Reagan presidency, Plante covered the historic summit meeting in Moscow with Mikhail Gorbachev. At the State Department, he covered Secretary of State James Baker's trips to the Middle East, both before and after the Gulf War; the changing U.S.-Soviet relationship during that period; and the 1991 Middle East peace talks, among many others.
To support his alma mater, Plante served for nine years on the Loyola Board of Trustees and has returned frequently as a guest speaker. He was part of a leadership team that helped guide Loyola through challenging financial times. He also aided the presidential search that resulted in the selection of the Rev. Michael Garanzini, S.J., now Loyola’s chancellor. For his service and contributions, the School of Communication recently established the Bill Plante Chair in Leadership and Media Integrity, an endowed chair focused on thoughtful leadership, ethics, and integrity in journalism.
Plante enjoys sharing his knowledge and experience with students at Loyola. He has visited the School of Communication, serving as a guest speaker in classes, participating in interviews with students, and working with students on television broadcasts. He encourages students to use journalism as a tool of social justice, drawing from his work covering the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War.
Plante has received many major broadcast journalism awards, including the Missouri School of Journalism Honor Award in 2015, a Lifetime Achievement Award from Radio-Television News Directors Foundation in 2013, and a shared DuPont Award for coverage of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012. Among other honors, he received Emmy Awards for his coverage of the death of Princess Diana, the Reagan-Gorbachev summit, Reagan's 1984 re-election campaign, and an investigative report on the U.S.-Soviet wheat deal broadcast on the CBS Evening News in 1972.