SMPA Mourns the Loss of Cokie Roberts, Wife of Professor Steven Roberts

September 18, 2019

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Credit: Jared Soares for The New York Times



Faculty, staff and students at the School of Media and Public Affairs are mourning the loss of Professor Steven Roberts' beloved wife of 53 years, Cokie Roberts. 


Cokie passed away after a long battle with cancer on Tuesday, September 17, 2019. 

Cokie was a trailblazer, remarkable journalist, an acclaimed author, and a chronicler of Washington, politics, and amazing women who made history. She was also a fabulous, decent, funny, and loving human being.

Together, Steve and Cokie wrote a nationally-syndicated newspaper column that was named one of the ten most popular columns in America by Media Matters. In February of 2000, they published “From This Day Forward,” an account of their marriage, as well as other marriages in American history. The New York Times called the book "inspiring and instructive" and it spent seven weeks on the Times best-seller list. In 2011 they also co-authored, "Our Haggadah: Uniting Traditions for Interfaith Families," which was featured on many national TV shows, including "This Week," "Charlie Rose," and "Morning Joe." 

In 2017, The New York Times did a profile on their marriage, "Cokie and Steven Roberts: A Half-Century of Changing Together," as part of the Times feature "It's No Secret." 

Cokie impacted and touched many lives. An overwhelming number of SMPA faculty, alumni, and students have reflected on their memories of Cokie and her marriage that inspired so many. 

Professor Roberts dedicates his life to his students. He believes every person has talent and promise. He is a mentor to so many students and SMPA alumni. 

Our condolences and thoughts are with Professor Roberts and his family during this very difficult time. Here are some of the touching tributes to Cokie from the SMPA community. 


Dana Bash, BA '93 - Instagram: "Last year I was honored to interview Cokie Roberts when she received one of her countless awards - this one was the “Women Making History Award.”

I got to know Cokie as a student when her husband Steve was my professor. She came to speak to us and blew us away with her smarts, class and candor. I knew then that I wanted to be like her. What was so amazing about Cokie is that she got it. She knew how important it is for women to be mentors to younger women. She embraced it. She talked openly about what it was like to work in our business when it was almost entirely men. She talked candidly about how hard it was to raise a family while doing it - especially then. She wrote books about forgotten women in history, like the founding MOTHERS. She grew up in politics and understood it better than anyone I know in TV news. She had a love story with my prof - Steve - that was amazing to watch. The mutual respect and love... practically unparalleled. What I have written here barely scratches the surface of her rich life and impact. Thank you Cokie for being you. Thank you for allowing women like me and so many others to have a journalistic North Star. May your memory be a blessing." 

Alec Snyder, BA '18 - Facebook: "I had the pleasure and privilege of taking a senior seminar on journalism ethics with Cokie Roberts' husband, Steven Roberts. At least every other conversation circled back to his love and admiration for Cokie. He beamed brighter in speaking about her and her accomplishments than just about anything and anyone else - and that included his hometown New York Yankees. Cokie's role as a trailblazer for women in journalism cannot be ignored. Her brilliance and her sharpness, wit and intelligence are unmatched. She showed that the playing field should be leveled and, many times, tilted in favor of women and their ability to succeed as reporters. A large reason journalists of all creeds and genders should be thankful for Cokie Roberts is because, in the face of adversity, she persisted. Cokie's loss and legacy are heavy but she will never be forgotten. Rest in peace, Cokie." 

Mollie Bowman, BA '16, MA '17 - Twitter: "I was lucky enough to know Cokie not just through her reporting, but through the eyes of her biggest fan and most adoring husband, my professor Steve Roberts. Once you knew her that way, you knew she that the Emmys barely did her justice. May she Rest In Peace."

Deepa Shivaram, BA '17Twitter: "Journalism has lost a legend. Sending love and light to the Roberts family — especially to Prof. Steve Roberts, her husband, who couldn’t go 5 minutes in class or at coffee without telling a story about Cokie and their wonderful, adventurous life."

Andrew Desiderio, BA '17Twitter: "Heartbreaking. Her husband Steve Roberts is my mentor who taught me so much at GW. I saw Prof. Roberts just two weeks ago and was reminded again of how much he loved her. Sending love to the @SMPAGWU family." 

Frank Sesno, Director of SMPA - Twitter:"It is with a heavy heart that I reported to our faculty this morning the passing of Cokie Roberts, wife of our beloved professor and friend Steve Roberts @SMPAGWU. Steve was holding her hand to the end. They shared a lifelong love story. So sad. We love them both."

Scott Nover, BA '17, MA'18Twitter: "The world has lost a journalism legend in Cokie Roberts. I've had the pleasure of counting her husband, Steve, as a professor and mentor in recent years and anyone who knows Steve knows he radiates love and admiration for his wife. Sending love his way today on this awful day." 

Jacquline Thomsen, BA '17 - Twitter: "Steve Roberts always champions the women in his classes at GW, and that is no small part exemplified by his devotion to Cokie. Anyone who overheard even a phone call between them could tell how dedicated to each other they were. Thinking of the Roberts family today." 

Erin Maloney, BA '07 - Twitter: "I loved listening to his stories about Cokie in class. He was so proud of her. Thinking of Professor Roberts and family." 

Kate Hash, BA '06 - Twitter: "One of my favorite @SMPAGWU professors was her husband, Steve Roberts. I remember being in awe of how he spoke about her, how he supported her career, and shared her experiences to inspire us. A truly dynamic couple." 

Emma Thomson, BA '16Twitter: "I'm heartbroken for Steven Roberts and their family. Was so fortunate to get a view into their life together during my years at @SMPAGWU."

Ali Stagnitta, BA '16 - Twitter: "My heart is breaking for my beloved Prof. His love for @CokieRoberts was palpable, and she was a beacon of light in the @SMPAGWU community, the journalism industry & the world. She will be sorely missed."

Audrey Scagnelli, BA '14 - Twitter: "My heart continues to mourn for Cokie Roberts & her beautiful family & especially her beloved, @SMPAGWU's Steve Roberts. I've read tributes from those who knew her well & those who spoke with her once & those who never had the chance, but felt like they had. They're proof that kindness counts. They give ink to a purposeful life, one lived fully & filled with a bevy of benevolent acts. Cokie Roberts touched my own small life innumerably. She loved fiercely & gave freely. She put things in perspective, then & also now. I treasure the gentle, wise advice she shared with me on weekend morning phone calls alongside my dear mentor, Professor Roberts. She brought me peace & confidence navigating a tough situation early in my career. She did the same for countless others...She was a tireless advocate for the voiceless and a role model to countless many, myself humbly included. The world feels a little smaller...a little darker...without the witty and kind and decent Cokie Roberts. But the force for good now has a reverent angel. May Cokie Roberts rest in peace."

Andrew Feldman, BA '11 - Twitter: "Thinking of my former @SMPAGWU professor Steve Roberts tonight, sending my heartfelt condolences"

Matt Sutton, BA '14 - Twitter: "So sad to hear this...She was one of the best journalists of our time. Lucky to have got to meet her and be taught by her husband Steven Roberts at @SMPAGWU, who played a significant role in shaping my outlook on media and democracy. "

Emily Milakovic, BA '19 - Twitter: "As a journalism major, my heart is heavy for our collective loss of Cokie Roberts; as an @SMPAGWU alum, my heart is heavy for her husband Steven's loss. What an incredible woman we were all lucky to have."

Ashley Le, BA '19 - Twitter: "Every generation of @SMPAGWU student is inspired by Cokie Roberts’ brilliance whenever Prof. Steven Roberts proudly tells us a story about her work. I’m forever grateful for the Roberts’ generosity & support. Their love for each other makes the world, and my life, a better place."

Peter Loge, SMPA Professor - Twitter: "I join millions of people mourning the loss of an American icon. I also join my colleagues in @SMPAGWU in mourning the loss of a colleague's best friend."

Steven Livingston, SMPA Professor - Twitter: "We attended Cokie Roberts funeral Mass this morning with many of our George Washington University friends. Nancy Pelosi spoke. Steve Roberts, Cokie ‘s husband of over 50 years, spoke with remarkable grace. In the 25 years I’ve known Steve I’ve never been more in awe. @SMPAGWU"

Cheryl W. Thompson, SMPA Professor - Twitter: "What a lovely celebration today of a life well lived. Cokie Roberts was an incredible journalist and an amazing human being who encouraged and inspired journalists like me to be the best."

Reena Ninan, BA '01 - CBS News Video Tribute: "Cokie Roberts was the ultimate truth-teller: In her own words, CBS News correspondent Reena Ninan pays tribute to her longtime mentor, legendary journalist Cokie Roberts, who died Tuesday due to complications from breast cancer."

MediaFile, SMPA Student Organization - Remembering the Life and Legacy of Cokie Roberts.