Lester Holt’s journey as a journalist started at Sac State

Lester Holt is one of the world’s most respected broadcast journalists – and it all began for him at Sacramento State. He became a better student, he says, and made the decision to become a journalist while at the University. “It set me off into the world.”

He still considers himself a student – “and my finals are every night at 6:30 Eastern time when I get in front of the camera.”

Holt, 58, anchors both NBC Nightly News and Dateline NBC. As a TV journalist, he has covered some of the world’s biggest stories, including the 2011 Egyptian revolution, the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil leak, the lead-up to the Iraq War, and two hurricanes.

In 2016, he was named as one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people, and he became the first African American to moderate a general-election presidential debate in nearly a quarter-century. In 2015, he was inducted into the California Hall of Fame, in Sacramento.

A few months earlier, during Sacramento State’s Spring 2015 Commencement ceremonies at Sleep Train Arena, Holt’s alma mater and the California State University Board of Trustees recognized his many achievements by conferring on him an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree. His wife, Carol, and his parents, June and Lester Sr., who still live in the Sacramento area, were in the audience.

“I am honored, and I certainly accept this degree with deep gratitude,” said Holt, who noted that his father also attended – and graduated from – Sacramento State. “I am so proud to be and (to) have been associated with this university.”

Holt, a graduate of Cordova High School in Rancho Cordova, was a government major and left Sacramento State during his junior year to take a job at a San Francisco radio station. Within 18 months, he landed a position at the CBS-TV affiliate in New York City and was on his way to becoming one of the nation’s most highly regarded broadcast journalists.

“I began with dreams of being a big-time disc jockey, but it was at Sac State that I was exposed to journalism, and it was there that my interest and my focus really narrowed in on becoming a news person,” Holt said in accepting his honorary degree. “There have been many times … that I wished I had completed my formal studies, but I hold my head high, and I accept that things happen for a reason.”

President Robert S. Nelsen with NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt during Holt’s Jan. 17, 2017, visit to the Sacramento State campus. (Sacramento State/Rob Neep)

Holt came “home” to Sac State again in January 2017, stopping by the campus for a quick visit, arriving in a modest rental car he drove himself. A day earlier, in Old Sacramento, he interviewed graduate students Ahlam Abdul-Rahman and Norma Mendoza as a part of a national discussion on immigration in the days leading up to the presidential inauguration. Sacramento was the first stop on his “Across America” series for NBC Nightly News.

The big news in the Holt household these days is the impending arrival of Carol and Lester’s first grandchild. Their son Stefan and his wife, Morgan, are expecting their baby in September.

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Alumna Danielle Moné Truitt makes her debut as ‘Rebel’


Sacramento State alumna Danielle Moné Truitt stars in the new BET series “Rebel,” which premiered March 28. Image courtesy BET.

This week, television audiences met Rebel, the main character of the new, eponymous BET series. And they also met Danielle Moné Truitt ’13 (Theatre Arts), a Sacramento State alumna and veteran theater actress making her debut as a TV star.

Truitt plays Rebecca “Rebel” Knight, an Oakland cop who becomes a private investigator after her brother is killed by police officers. The show blends ’70s-era “blaxploitation” themes with contemporary settings and issues, including Black Lives Matter.

Danielle_Mone_TruittThe Sacramento Bee recently profiled Truitt ahead of the series premiere, detailing how a veteran theater actress with little television experience was able to wow director John Singleton and win the part.

“It’s nice to know I do have something people find intriguing,” Truitt told the Bee. “Being from south Sacramento, growing up having a hard life and being a sista can work to my advantage.”

In an interview last year with Sacramento State, Truitt said she didn’t consider a career as an actor until one of her professors encouraged her to join her first play.

“Opening night I walked out, and I was like, ‘Yep, this is what I want to do,’ ” she said.

Rebel airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on BET. Truitt will return to Sacramento on April 29 for an event hosted by the California Film Festival.

From princess to P.I.: Actress/alumna set to shine in new BET series

(Photo courtesy of Danielle Moné Truitt)

Danielle Moné Truitt is a self-described late bloomer when it comes to acting. When she arrived at Sac State as a psychology major, the longtime singer had no idea she might want to be an actress as well, until a professor prompted her to join her first play.

But when Truitt set foot on the Sac State stage for the first time, everything changed. “Opening night I walked out, and I was like, ‘Yep, this is what I want to do,'” she says.

That moment ultimately led her to a brighter spotlight than she had ever imagined: Next February, Truitt (’05, Theatre Arts) will play the lead role in the new BET series Rebel, accompanied by an all-star cast and crew.

After more than a decade honing her craft in Hollywood, performing around the country, and raising a family, Truitt’s big break was a long time – and a lot of hard work – in the making.

“I’ve been here 10 years and I have a husband, I have two children, and I got a chance to grow a family in the midst of pursuing my career,” Truitt says, “and it just feels great to know know that you can have it all if you just don’t give up.”

Rebel stars Truitt as a former Oakland police officer who turned private investigator after her brother was murdered. The series is the brainchild of Academy Award-nominated director John Singleton, best known for the groundbreaking Boyz n the Hood as well as blockbusters like 2 Fast 2 Furious and Four Brothers.

Some of the industry’s top stars will share the screen with Truitt, including Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad), Mykelti  Williamson (Forrest Gump), and Method Man (The Wire).

“The fact that (Singleton) cast actors like Giancarlo Esposito and Mykelti Williamson around me has just given me opportunities to raise my game, because they’re heavyweights in the acting field,” Truitt says. “It’s just been a dream come true.”

Truitt has traveled a long road to realizing that dream. After moving to Los Angeles to pursue acting full time after graduating in 2005, she quickly found out that she had to develop a thick skin to succeed in Tinseltown.

“L.A. is a beast in itself,” she says. “There are so many people telling you ‘no’ on a regular basis, there’re so many people judging how you look. … You have to really have self-esteem, and you have to really have a community of people that love and support you in your career in order to make it.”

Disney fans especially may already be familiar with Truitt, though they may not  know it: In 2009’s The Princess and the Frog, she did the video referencing for the film’s animated protagonist, Princess Tiana. She lent her movements and expressions to bring the character to life.

That opportunity opened the door to a number of guest- and co-starring roles – including on shows like Fox’s Mulaney – in addition to a host of other auditions.

All the while, Truitt continued to work on her own material, started a family, kept auditioning – babies in tow – and even starred in a one-woman show, 3 Black Girl Blues, which she performed on both coasts.

No matter how committed she was to her dream, she simply refused to put her life on hold, and it paid off: This past December, she auditioned for the starring role on Rebel, and after long months of waiting, found out in April she landed the part.

“One thing to keep in mind is that there’re no guarantees,” she says. “You cannot handcuff yourself to a timeline. For me, I got married and I could’ve said, ‘I’m not having kids until I make it.’ That would’ve meant that I still wouldn’t have kids right now, because it took me 10 years.

“This industry is so hard to navigate. And the best thing to do is to stay open to life and take it as it comes.”