West Virginia University P.I. Reed School of Journalism graduation candidates will receive a first-class farewell from award-winning NBC journalist Hoda Kotb, who is coming home to West Virginia.

She will be the keynote speaker for the schools Commencement ceremony at 10 a.m. Sunday, May 17, at the WVU Creative Arts Center.

Kotb co-hosts the fourth hour ofTodaywith Kathie Lee Gifford, is a correspondent forDateline NBC and hosts NBC s weekly syndicated seriesYour Total Health.

Though she was born in Norman, Okla., Kotb grew up in Morgantown before her family moved to Alexandria, Va. Despite moving away, she says West Virginia still holds a place in her heart.

Returning to WVU is like coming home,Kotb said.My dad was a professor of engineering. We never missed a home football game. I know the WVU fight song by heart. My childhood closet was covered with �€~Wild Wonderful West Virginiabumper stickers. The day we packed up and moved from 1416 Dogwood Ave., I sat on the front stoop and cried.

Because of this, Kotb says she learned a life lesson early onthat change is painful but necessary for growth. She says she hopes that graduates understand that they must have roots and wings to succeed in a challenging economy and competitive market.

Never take the safe route,she said.No. 1: Its boring. No. 2: You dont want a life full of �€~what ifs.So heres what you have to do: stand on the edge of cliff, close your eyes and jump. You will fly.

Were thrilled to have a journalist of Kotbs stature give the send-off to our students,said Maryanne Reed, dean of the School of Journalism.Kotb has risen through the ranks to become one of the most admired and recognized television correspondents in America.

In her nine years at NBC , Kotb has covered a wide variety of domestic and international stories. Most recently, she covered the aftermath and one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. The story was very personal to Kotb who lived in New Orleans for six years.

In addition, she has reported on the war in Iraq, the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and the war on terror in Afghanistan. Kotb conducted an exclusive interview with Aung San Suu Kyi, an internationally recognized leader of Burma, marking the first time in 11 years that Suu Kyi was interviewed by an American television network.

Kotb traveled to Southeast Asia to cover the devastating effects of the 2004 tsunami and to war-torn Burma, led secretly by rebel soldiers, to report the complete story on 12-year-old twin warriors who were said to have magical powers. Kotb also co-anchored an MSNBC special on race,Shades of HopeShadows of Hate,which was reported from Birmingham, Ala., at the former site of a Klan bombing.

Kotb has received numerous awards, including the 2008 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award and the prestigious Peabody in 2006 for herDateline NBC reportThe Education of Ms. Groves.The four-time Emmy nominee also won the 2004 Headliner Award, 2003 Gracie Award and the 2002 Edward R. Murrow Award.

Previously, Kotb worked at WWL -TV, the CBS affiliate in New Orleans, where she served as an anchor and reporter for the 10 p.m. news broadcast (1992-98). She was a weekend anchor and reporter for WINK -TV in Fort Myers, Fla. (1989-91).

Prior to that, Kotb was a morning anchor and general assignment reporter for WQAD -TV, the ABC affiliate in Moline, Ill., and an anchor for WXVT -TV, the CBS affiliate in Greenville, Miss. (1986-89). Kotb began her broadcast career with CBS News as a news assistant in Cairo, Egypt (1986).

Kotb graduated from Virginia Tech with a Bachelor of Arts degree in broadcast journalism. She resides in New York City.

The School of Journalisms May Commencement ceremony is reserved for graduation candidates and their families. The public may view a live webcast of Kotbs address at http://webcast.wvu.edu .