He has covered the Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina, the Florida fires and military buildup in Kuwait – now he is coming to West Virginia University.

A contributor to “60 Minutes” and chief national correspondent for “The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric,” Byron Pitts will kickoff the 2010 David C. Hardesty Jr. Festival of Ideas on Thursday, Feb. 4.

“Step Out on Nothing: An Evening with Byron Pitts” will take place at 7:30 p.m. in the Mountainlair ballrooms.

Pitts has won multiple Emmys for his coverage of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and Chicago train wreck of 1999. He became a CBS News correspondent in May 1998. Previously, he served as a general assignment reporter in Atlanta, special assignment reporter in Boston, substitute anchor in Tampa, reporter in Orlando and military reporter in Virginia.

Pitts’ many achievements did not come easy. Raised by a single mother in a working class neighborhood in Baltimore, Pitts was illiterate until the age of 12 and had a persistent stutter. Capitalizing on his desire to play football, his mother mandated he receive Bs or above in school in order to play.

With that focus, Pitts learned to read and went on to attend Ohio Wesleyan University. By staying focused, setting simple and achievable goals and finding strength in faith, Pitts overcame powerful odds. He graduated in 1982 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and speech communication.

The Festival of Ideas lecture series, which will continue through April, will feature nine events and seven outstanding professionals. The series was first created in the 1960s when former WVU President David C. Hardesty was student body president. It was renamed in honor of Hardesty in 2009.

The series is supported in part by the David C. Hardesty Jr. Festival of Ideas Endowment, which was established in 2007 by the WVU Foundation, a private, nonprofit corporation that generates, receives and administers private gifts from individuals and organizations for the benefit of WVU.

Pitts’ lecture is also being co-sponsored by the Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism’s Gruine Robinson Speaker Series and WVU’s Center for Black Culture and Research.

A book signing will follow the presentation in the Mountaineer Room of the Mountainlair.

Please visit the 2010 Festival of Ideas Web site at http://festivalofideas.wvu.edu for a complete list of events.



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