Lowell — The people of Lowell celebrate the city with Barbara Walters, a pioneering television broadcaster who broke barriers for women in the media as the first female anchor for a network news program, as a guest speaker at Middlesex Community College’s Celebrity Forum. I remember when I came to
The internationally renowned newswoman, who died on December 30 at the age of 93, captivated local crowds in June 2004 with stories of her rise to the top of her field.
Lowell celebrities, MCC students and others filled the 3,000-seat Lowell Memorial Auditorium to see and hear Walters. – Powerful presence.
Cook said women lined the corridors leading to the venue where Walters was scheduled to speak, hoping to catch a glimpse of the news star.
“Some women in the hall said they loved you on ‘The View,'” Cook recalled. rice field. We also cover news articles. She wanted to make sure her role in her news coverage was still recognized. ”
Boston-born Walters was already well known for his interviews with politicians, celebrities, and other notables for the news magazine 20/20.
But in 1997, she created a television talk show, The View, which explored a range of popular topics with all-female panels, and was a touchstone for generations of mostly female viewers. .
City Councilwoman Rita Mercier, who was in the audience that night, said, “Barbara Walters was a pioneer. She asked the tough questions. It was such an honor to meet her. I thought of her world.” Mercier is the third female mayor of Lowell since its founding in 1826, serving from 2002 to 2003.
The university’s Celebrity Forum is the brainchild of Carol Cowan, the third president of the MCC, and Niki Tsongas, foreign affairs director hired by the university after the death of her husband, U.S. Senator Paul Tsongas, in 1997. did. Help with fundraising. (In 2007, Niki Tsongas was elected to the House of Representatives for the congressional district previously represented by her husband.)
“The intention was to raise money for a scholarship,” Cook said. “And Carol and Niki thought it would be a great way to bring these international celebrities to the city and the Greater Lowell area.”
The first year’s 1999 speaker was Walter Cronkite, followed by Colin Powell, George and Barbara Bush, Rudy Giuliani, and David McCullough. The series cast a wide net of what Cook called “newsmakers and press people,” including movie stars, politicians, and journalists.
At the time, Cook was helping the Lowell Police Department with event security while working with the university. After Cooke left The Sun, he served as the police department’s communications director.
And, as he describes it as “100% chance,” he was chosen as Walters’ escort to the stage.
“We were in the back of the auditorium. They were trying to open the door and she was trying to get in,” Cook recalled. pointed to me and said ‘I want him’.”
As they walked down the central aisle to the song “There’s Nothing Like a Dame” from the musical South Pacific, Cook was surprised when Walters began performing a dance step.
“I thought she was down,” Cook said, laughing at the memory. While I was there, I didn’t realize she was performing and dancing for the crowd.
Walters, who was known for his diligent interview preparation, was “improvised and a lot of fun” onstage, Cook said, telling stories and answering audience questions.
“She was a natural storyteller,” Cook said. “Barbara said she had to fight really hard to get here. was going with the flow.”
The event raised a lot of money for college scholarships, Cook said, and Walters met the scholarship winners backstage.
“It was great to have someone like that come to town and have so many of Lowell’s peers get to chat with her,” said Cook, who has already started planning for this year’s Celebrity Forum.