Updated: NBC's Curry Confuses Colleges In Commencement Speech, Gets Lost On Today Show Set

Today show co-anchor and Dateline correspondent Ann Curry delivered a commencement address to students at Wheaton College in Massachusetts over the weekend and attempted to honor that institution's proud alumni as she called out such luminaries like Rev. Billy Graham and 9/11 hero Todd Beamer, but it turns out she got her Wheaton Colleges mixed up. According to the Boston Globe the NBC newsreader mistakenly identified famous graduates from Wheaton College in Illinois, not the one in Massachusetts.

The "Today" show anchor gave a shout-out to a few distinguished Wheaton alums, but there was one problem: They were alums of the other Wheaton College. Curry, a graduate of the University of Oregon, cited evangelist Billy Graham, horror director Wes Craven, and 9/11 hero Todd Beamer, who was a passenger on United Airlines flight 93. While it's true all three attended Wheaton, it was the Christian liberal arts college in Illinois, not the school in Norton where Curry was speaking.

This isn't the first time Curry made a gaffe involving the state of Illinois, back in 2008 she needed Chuck Todd's help in finding it on a map.

Apparently Curry isn't just geographically challenged, she even gets lost on the Today show set as on Tuesday's show she accidentally walked in on Al Roker during a live segment about eco-friendly tips for the kitchen. As the Today show weatherman was listening to advice on conserving water from diet and nutrition editor Madelyn Fernstrom, Curry barged in stage left, then sheepishly ducked back behind the door, as a still laughing Roker quipped: "Hi Ann!" 

The following is the full Boston Globe article from its May 24 online edition:

Where am I? The crowd at Saturday's Wheaton College commencement may have wondered that while listening to Ann Curry's speech to grads. The "Today" show anchor gave a shout-out to a few distinguished Wheaton alums, but there was one problem: They were alums of the other Wheaton College. Curry, a graduate of the University of Oregon, cited evangelist Billy Graham, horror director Wes Craven, and 9/11 hero Todd Beamer, who was a passenger on United Airlines flight 93. While it's true all three attended Wheaton, it was the Christian liberal arts college in Illinois, not the school in Norton where Curry was speaking. "She gave a great speech," said Wheaton spokesman Michael Graca. "She went out of her way to meet with students before her speech and to get information about the college." The transcript and video of Curry's 16-minute talk is posted on the college's web site, but the reference to Graham, Craven, and Beamer has been edited. "We didn't want to broadcast misinformation," explained Graca, who told us Curry is aware of her mistake. In case you're wondering, Wheaton College in Massachusetts does have its own distinguished alums, including "60 Minutes" correspondent Lesley Stahl, former New Jersey governor Christine Todd Whitman, and Oscar-nominated actress Catherine Keener. In an open letter to the Wheaton community today, Curry said: "I am mortified by my mistake, and can only hope the purity of my motive, to find a way to connect with the graduates and to encourage them to a life of service, will allow you to forgive me."

Here's the full text of Curry's letter:

Wheaton's 2010 graduation ceremony this past Saturday was the most delightful I have ever experienced, as the warmth the students showed for their faculty and for each other was so overwhelming it was felt even by me, an outsider.

So it is with a heavy heart that I ask you to forgive me for mistakenly naming graduates of the other Wheaton College in my address.

I now know I should have named National Medal of Science winner Dr. Mary Ellen Avery, former New Jersey Governor and former EPA Director Christie Todd Whitman, literary agent Esther Newberg, Oscar-nominated actress Catherine Keener and Ken Babby, the youngest senior officer in the history of the Washington Post, among others. Thank goodness I got Leslie Stahl right.

I am mortified by my mistake, and can only hope the purity of my motive, to find a way to connect with the graduates and to encourage them to a life of service, will allow you to forgive me.

But whether or not you can, I want you to know that my brief visit left me deeply impressed with the quality of Wheaton. It was evident in the confidence of your graduates as they collected their diplomas, that they have been exceedingly well nurtured. And even with my blunder, the students were also gracious enough to react with a standing ovation. Now THAT is good manners.

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.