Pullitzer Prize winner to address students

Leonard Pitts, Jr. will be the speaker for the Robison Lecture this spring.

The award-winning pop music critic and columnist will visit campus March 8 at the request of the Intellectual and Cultural Activities Committee.

When Olatunji Dare, of the communications department, was approached about Pitts, he said he was excited at the chance to have him keynote.

“We jumped at the chance because Leonard Pitts is a Pullitzer Prize winning columnist whose work is syndicated at hundreds of papers across the US, including the Peoria Journal Star” he said.

Pitts grew up in Southern California. He began his career as a professional writer at age 18 when he took a job as a pop music critic for the Miami Herald and worked as a freelance writer for SOUL, a national black entertainment tabloid. By age 20, he was promoted to editor.

In 1988, Pitts wrote and produced the award-winning radio documentary “Who We Are” about the history of black America.  Since then, he has produced and helped write a number of radio shows, such as American Top 40 with Casey Kasem.”

In 2004, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for commentary. Pitts was also honored by the Society of Professional Journalists and the National Association of Black Journalists and received many other awards for his columns.

Pitts published his first book, “Becoming Dad: Black Men and the Journey to Fatherhood,” in 1999 and released his first novel, “Before I Forget,” 10 years later.

Pitts was also a visiting professor teaching journalism at Hampton University in Hampton, Va. in 2003-2004. In 2005-2006 he taught journalism at Ohio University in Athens and at Virginia Commonwealth University in Virginia.

One of Pitts’ most famous columns was written after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. He wrote an angry letter to the terrorists titled “We’ll Go Forward From This Moment” which circled the Internet generating 30,000 e-mails, set to music and reprinted on posters, read on television by Regis Philbin and quoted during the Democratic Party’s weekly radio address.

“From the lecture, we hope students will find inspiration to preserver, to face the challenges of journalism and to settle for nothing else than superior work,” Dare said.