Alum, columnist to give address

New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow, a 1991 Grambling State University graduate, will deliver the commencement address next month.

“I’m thrilled, and humbled, to have been asked to deliver the commencement address,” said Blow, 42. “This is undoubtedly the most meaningful speech – on a personal level – that I’ve ever been asked to give.”

New York Times readers and television viewers may recognize the opinionated journalist. He makes frequent appearances on CNN and MSNBC, commenting on a variety of issues. He regularly uses socialmedia, especially Twitter. Thousands of readers and viewers follow him at @charleshblow.

“Grambling is the place that nurtured me and allowed me to grow and blossom,” he added. “At Grambling I learned that potential is without limits when it is bound up with a thirst for excellence and a fierce determination.”

Blow graduated magna cum laude with a bachelors in mass communications from Grambling State University. As a student, he was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper, The Gramblinite, and the founder of a now-defunct student magazine, Razz.

Grambling businessman Johnny Grey, who sells insurance and runs the local Greyhound bus stations used by scores of students, is Blow’s cousin. He stays in touch with him periodically, but not as often as he would like because Blow is so busy with his numerous jobs. Grey said he’s really proud of his Gibson, La., native relative and all that he’s doing.

With his newspaper job and two television commentary jobs, Blow still finds time to write. He has an upcoming book in production with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, scheduled to be published in 2014.

Blow has been a member of the Society of News Design (SND) and the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ).

“Our first lady mentioned Charles Blow to me and I didn’t know he was a Grambling State University graduate at the time. I knew of him, I’ve read his columns and I’ve seen him on television, but when I realized he’s one of our own and a Louisiana native who excelled on our campus and someone who has excelled in everything he’s done, it was a no-brainer that we would invite him to speak to our graduates at our May commencement,” said Grambling State University President Frank G. Pogue.

Blow, The New York Times’ first visual op-ed columnist, has a reputation for communicating effectively in a variety of ways, including design, graphics, text and words – and doing so with candor, clarity and strong point of view. In 2011, he was ranked #11 on The Roots’ Top 100 most influential people, beating Kanye West, who followed at #12, and Beyonce’ Knowles, who ranked #13.

The Louisiana native joined The Times in 1994 as a graphics editor, and he was promoted to lead the entire graphics team as graphics director, a position he held for nine years. In 2008, he started a weekly

column at the newspaper that features charts and a guileless edge.

Blow led the newspaper’s graphics team to a best of show award from the Society of News Design for

graphics produced during the coverage of the attacks on September 11, 2001. In addition, as graphics

editor he led the group to a best of show award from the Malofiej International Infographics Summit for coverage of the Iraq war.

Noting his amazing range of knowledge and skills, Joice Dunn, the newspaper’s university editor,

remembered Blow as being “…pushy when he was editor of the paper,” a leader who “made sure that you turned in your assignment” and an editor who was so well-rounded that “he could do anything his staff could do.”

Sandra Lee, Blow’s mass communication mentor, helped nurture him and helped him find his visual

voice. “He was a great student,” she said in an interview. “He was always eager to learn…he was always on top and went above and beyond.”

Blow is a single parent, living in Brooklyn with his three teenage kids. Grambling State University’s

commencement will be held at 10 a.m. on May 10 in the Frederick C. Hobdy Assembly Center.