As a Vanderbilt with a Yale education, Anderson Cooper has lived a pretty extraordinary life. Turn on CNN and you'll likely see the trademark bright blue eyes and silver hair that has helped Cooper become one of the most recognizable faces in media and journalism. Since the start of Cooper’s career in 1992, he has worked in more than 40 nations, frequently covering the world’s major news developments. He anchors the global newscast Anderson Cooper 360⁰ on CNN. He is also a best-selling author and has won several major journalism awards, including an Edward R. Murrow Award and 16 Emmys.
Before making his mark on CNN, Cooper traded in his privileged Manhattan penthouse for the Gothic, ivy-covered campus of Yale University. As an undergraduate in New Haven, Cooper was a political science major, residing in Trumbull College. He was inducted into the Manuscript Society and competed as the coxswain for the lightweight crew team.
Surprisingly, Cooper was not actively involved in journalism. Yet his friends, coaches and professors said that his interest in politics combined with his sharp wit logically led to his career as a news reporter. In 1989 he wrote his senior essay on operations against Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi during the Reagan administration. After graduation, Cooper had difficulties finding a job, forcing him to explore extremely unorthodox ways of breaking into mainstream news.
Like many other well-known Yalies, Cooper often finds himself returning to his Alma Mater for good reasons. For example, in 2006 he took a break from his CNN show to deliver the Yale Class Day address. Peppered with lighthearted and sarcastic tones, Cooper's speech urged graduates to embrace the ambiguity they were about to face in the real world. Considering his own unconventional trajectory after college, the life advice undoubtedly rang true to the graduating seniors who continuously applauded Cooper's speech.
Ten years later Cooper was back at Yale, this time to receive the 2016 Yale Undergraduates’ Lifetime Achievement Award. The award, which was created in 2014, is the only award in Ivy League history that is completely elected and administered by students. Cooper was selected as that year’s recipient by a student body-wide vote, according to the YCC announcement, in recognition of his "unparalleled" career in journalism and his accomplishments while an undergraduate at Yale.
Cooper, who has been in the public eye since making an appearance on the cover of Harper's Bazaar as a baby, is arguably one of the most improbable humans on our planet. But the good news for Yale is that alumni like him are an invaluable resource. They are able to bestow their valuable time, charm, intelligence, advice, and even star power onto the next generations trying to navigate the world that exists outside New Haven's ivy-covered walls.