David S. Rohde is a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter who, in 2008, was kidnapped by the Taliban. After seven months of being held hostage by jihadists in rural Pakistan, Rohde made a daring escape that garnered media attention from across the globe. Rohde, who grew up in a close-knit New England family, started his professional career in production for several ABC news programs. His big break came in the mid-1990s when he started reporting for The Christian Science Monitor. Notably, Rohde's reporting in the Balkans played a critical role in exposing the ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Bosnia. In addition to his current role as the online news director for The New Yorker, Rohde has also held high-profile positions at The New York Times and CNN. His stories on overseas conflicts have even influenced numerous shifts in U.S. foreign policy. Reflecting these achievements, Rohde has received many awards and honors during his lifetime, including being named one of the International Press Institute's World Press Freedom Heroes in 2012. Previously, he served as a fellow at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.
A native of Maine, Rohde didn't have to travel far when he decided to enroll at Brown University for his undergraduate studies. The product of an exclusive U.S. boarding school, Rohde was prepared both socially and academically for Ivy League life. Crucially, Brown afforded the young man a chance to pursue different inclinations, starting with sociology, then moving on to history, community service, and semiotics. But it was in the English department that Rohde found his passion. One semester, Rohde took a non-fiction writing class taught by a professor named Roger Henkle. It was a watershed moment, recalled Rohde, that “made journalism my god.” In 1990, he received his Bachelor of Arts in history from Brown.
In 2010, Rohde received news that he was being awarded one of his alma mater's highest honors. That year, he was asked to deliver the Baccalaureate Address for Brown's 242nd Commencement. In his address, titled “Our God,” Rohde touched on numerous topics, including his personal experiences while covering some of the world's biggest conflict zones. Pulling directly from his own unique history, he offered the fresh crop of Brown graduates some guidance that had served him well during his darkest hours –namely, he wanted them to remain open, optimistic, and compassionate when dealing with people who have different values. "Don’t be spoon-fed by your familiar and comfortable information source of choice . . . Think for yourselves. Challenge yourselves."
Following his address, Rohde also received an honorary Doctor of Letters (Litt.D.) degree. The eulogizing citation included, "From the world’s most troubled regions – places we need to see but often cannot — you have reported on old conflicts and new wars . . . Now, on the 20th anniversary of your graduation from Brown, we welcome you home and honor you with the degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa."