‘Fatherly’ Advice

Ohio Wesleyan alumnus Byron Pitts ’82 shares thoughts with graduating seniors

Jared Haas ’11 speaks with OWU alumnus Byron Pitts ’82 by videoconference as part of a senior seminar. Pitts, CBS News chief national correspondent and 60 Minutes contributing correspondent, answered student questions and shared thoughts on life after graduation. (Photo by Cole Hatcher)

When Ohio Wesleyan University senior Jared Haas began to share his post-graduation career plans with OWU alumnus Byron Pitts, the CBS News chief national correspondent and 60 Minutes contributing correspondent had a few helpful hints.

“It’s the father in me,” said Pitts ’82, who participated in a video conference Wednesday with Haas and other students in physical education professor Margie Shade’s senior seminar class.

Pitts recommended that Haas, a physical education major from Marion, Ohio—and all students—be as specific as possible when talking about their future plans.

“The words we say about ourselves matter,” Pitts said, recommending that students talk about what they will do after graduation versus what they hope to do.

“It’s important that we dream big, but dreams need an address,” Pitts explained. “Be as detailed and specific as possible. Be definitive, confident, and have a destination.”

And Haas, who is pursuing an internship with the Cleveland Indians, was appreciative of Pitts’ advice: “Thank you,” Haas said as he and Pitts looked at each via dual webcams in Pitts’ New York office and OWU’s AV Center. “I’ll use that,” Haas said sincerely. “That was deep.”

Shade, too, was appreciative of Pitts’ fatherly advice, noting, “I give them the ‘mother’ all the time.”

Shade arranged for the early morning video conference after having students read Pitts’ book, Step Out on Nothing, and prepare questions for the successful journalist. In the senior seminar, she said, the students are concentrating on “research, reflection, and transition” as they take a look at where they are in life, where they want to go, and how they are going to get there.

“Byron is such a wonderful example of transition, perseverance, and success,” Shade said. “He kept plugging away and got where he wanted to be.”

During his discussion, senior Pete Merkle of Loveland, Ohio, learned that Pitts had decided as an OWU freshman to pursue a career as a network news correspondent.

As a senior, Pitts said, he had set a 25-year goal of joining 60 Minutes. Then he began researching his role models—including veteran journalists Ed Bradley, Morley Safer, and Diane Sawyer—to learn how their careers progressed and what paths he would need to follow.

“I knew I’d need an internship. I knew I’d need a TV job,” Pitts said, explaining how he used what he learned to map out a 25-year plan.

Pitts also told students that he understands the future sometimes looks daunting.

Recalling a low point in his life, he shared memories of losing two teeth in an OWU football game, being dumped by his girlfriend, and being on academic probation all at the same time. Despite these personal hardships, Pitts said, he remained focused on his long-term goals and he encouraged students to do the same.

“As long as [a dream] is vague,” Pitts said, “it will always be vague.”

Pitts spoke to the full campus during a visit to his alma mater in October 2009. Hear his inspiring stories and remarks at Stream OWU.

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