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Simmons College mourns for journalist Gwen Ifill, an alumna

Debate moderator Gwen Ifill shook hands with then-Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden in 2008.

Don Emmert/Associated Press/File

Debate moderator Gwen Ifill shook hands with then-Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden in 2008.

Globe Staff/File

Gwen Ifill spoke at Simmons College’s 2009 commencement.

The Simmons College community was mourning the death of Gwen Ifill Monday, one of the school’s most beloved alumnae.

“She was a great friend to Simmons, and she was always very available to us,” said Helen Drinan, the school’s president, who knew her personally.

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Ifill was co-host of the PBS “NewsHour” with Judy Woodruff and a veteran journalist who moderated two vice presidential debates. She was 61.

A former reporter for The New York Times and The Washington Post, Ifill switched to television in the 1990s and covered politics and Congress for NBC News. She moved to PBS in 1999 as host of ‘‘Washington Week’’ and also worked for the nightly ‘‘NewsHour’’ program. She and Woodruff were named co-anchors in 2013.

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“She was very encouraging to young women journalists,” Drinan said. “She really always made her connections to Simmons and talked up her Simmons roots.”

Drinan described Ifill as a “big thinker” who was a fantastic role model for women.

“She was grounded in this humility and a kind of friend-level connection that was always real,” Drinan said.

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Ifill got her communication degree from Simmons in 1977, Drinan said, and was the school’s commencement speaker in 2009.

“She was a great commencement speaker, as you would imagine. The students just adored her,” Drinan said.

Simmons will do something to honor Ifill, but Drinan said she wasn’t sure what that would entail yet.

“She’s young. It’s hard to lose someone that young,” she said.

Material from the New York Times was used in this story. Dylan McGuinness can be reached at dylan.mcguinness@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DylMcGuinness.
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