University Communications

AUP Bestows Journalist and Life-long Learner Deborah Ann Roberts With an Honorary Degree


“We are delighted to welcome Deborah Roberts back to The American University of Paris, and to celebrate and honor her many achievements as an investigative journalist, news anchor, and author. Hard-hitting in its impact and empathic to its core, Deborah Roberts’s award-winning journalism allies impeccable research and unrelenting truth-seeking with compassionate storytelling, and we are proud to recognize her with this honorary doctorate.”

– President Sonya Stephens 

This spring, The American University of Paris will celebrate the accomplishments of award-winning journalist Deborah Roberts and her unique talent for telling emotional stories with journalistic excellence by bestowing upon her an honorary degree, which she will receive alongside AUP’s 2024 graduates at the May 24 commencement ceremony at the Théâtre du Châtelet. 

A media veteran who has been with ABC News for over 20 years, Deborah Roberts is clear on the stakes and value of investigative journalism. “The news today does not give us the opportunity to put things into perspective,” says Roberts. We live in a world of “increased access to information, but it is harder and harder to discern the truth.” For students going into journalism today, or anyone really, she encourages what she calls “old-fashioned research” to counter “opinion journalism.” “These days, so many things pass for journalism,” she laments. “We have lost track of the notion of trying to present unbiased facts as best we can, and now we’re dealing with a public that doesn’t necessarily trust the news.” The body of work she has produced and her continuing professional commitments are testimony to her integrity and to this driving principle. 

As Roberts’s career took her across Africa, Asia and Europe to hear and tell stories, she discovered how much we can learn from others and that gaining perspective is key. Ever motivated by the desire to “look at the world in a bigger way,” travel and reporting have offered Roberts many opportunities to foster greater understanding among people from different walks of life. Even within the United States, she says, travel brings greater understanding and allows people to see that they are more alike than they think. Some of her work-related travel has been celebratory, such as covering a royal wedding in England, while other travel has been much more challenging but necessary, such as reporting from Bangladesh on maternal mortality, or from Namibia on children running their households after losing their parents to AIDS.  

Deborah Roberts is also the author of Been There, Done That: Family Wisdom for Modern Times, a book written with her husband, Al Roker, and Lessons Learned and Cherished: The Teacher Who Changed My Life, which was released in May 2023 and has become a New York Times Bestseller. In this book, Roberts honors the people who have made a difference, in her life and in the lives of others, focusing on teachers, a largely unrecognized sector of the population that matters immensely. In the book and in her daily life, Roberts credits teachers who inspired her, education in general, and female role models in her industry as being so influential in her life path. 

“It is hard to be a woman in any industry and to not endure a sense of struggle,” says Roberts, but if she has any advice for us today, it would be to embrace your passion, to stay curious, and to be open to other perspectives and life situations; get to know people, do some “real digging” and never take things at face value. Today, she sees herself as someone who wants to give to others, especially to people starting off in the business, and to women, because she learned from other women. “I looked up to Barbara Walters, Diane Sawyer, Carol Simpson, and lesser-known producers working behind the scenes, Meredith White and Shelly Ross…” 

When asked what this degree means to her, Roberts expressed genuine gratitude at being honored in this way and called the opportunity to highlight higher education thrilling. What’s more, AUP is an institution she respects and knows well. She has spoken at AUP previously, in 2018, in a series sponsored by the President’s Office called “Women on Women,” about her own career as a woman, reflected on the #metoo year, and launched a discussion on its meaning and impact. And, as a parent of an AUP graduate, she knows only too well the power and transformation of this educational experience. Leila Roker ‘21 remains in Paris and is herself a journalist. “Leila loved the notion of being a global citizen,” said Roberts. “The experience brought her independence and allowed her to develop her natural curiosity for the world around her.” 

From the integrity demonstrated by her commitment to reporting the facts to her empathy within the profession and drive to support others across sectors, Deborah Roberts is a distinguished journalist and a role model, embodying many of the values upheld by AUP. Never missing an opportunity to continue to learn and to honor those who have helped her along the way, she has become a leader and mentor in her own right.