August 5, 2017

C-SPAN founder, Purdue graduate keynotes summer commencement

Brian Lamb speak at commencement Keynote speaker Brian Lamb addresses Purdue’s most recent graduates Saturday (Aug. 5) during the university’s summer commencement. (Purdue University photo/Mark Simons) Download image

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Brian Lamb, Purdue alumnus and founder of C-SPAN Networks, delivered the keynote address at the university’s summer commencement ceremony Saturday (Aug. 5).

About 1,350 students were eligible for degrees, with 447 undergraduates, 906 graduate students and three Doctor of Nursing Practice candidates eligible to participate in the ceremony, which took place in Elliott Hall of Music.

Lamb is the executive chairman and founder of the C-SPAN Networks. He’s been an integral part of C-SPAN since he helped launch the cable industry on March 19, 1979, serving as the network’s CEO until March 2012.

He has been a regular on-air presence at C-SPAN since the network’s earliest days. Over the years, he has interviewed presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and many world leaders such as Margaret Thatcher and Mikhail Gorbachev. During a 15-year span, Lamb interviewed 800 non-fiction authors for a weekly program called Booknotes. Currently, he hosts Q&A, an hourlong interview program airing on Sunday evenings with people who are making things happen in the public sphere.

Lamb was born and raised in Lafayette, Indiana. Interested in broadcasting as a child, he built crystal radio sets to pick up local signals. During high school and college, he sought out jobs at Lafayette radio and television stations, spinning records, selling ads, and eventually hosting his own television program. After graduating from Purdue with a degree in speech, Lamb joined the Navy. His tour included the USS Thuban, White House duty during the Johnson administration, and a stint in the Pentagon public affairs office during the Vietnam War.

In 1974, he returned to journalism, publishing a biweekly newsletter called The Media Report.  He also covered telecommunications issues as Washington bureau chief for Cablevision magazine.

It was from this vantage point that C-SPAN began to take shape. Congress was about to televise its proceedings; the cable industry was looking for programming to deliver to its customers by satellite, and Lamb brought these two ideas together with C-SPAN, which launched with the first televised House of Representatives debate on March 19, 1979. In 1986, C-SPAN2 was launched to carry Senate debates live. Later C-SPAN nonfiction editorial products include BookTV, American History TV. 

Lamb’s work with C-SPAN has been recognized with the Presidential Medal of Honor and the National Humanities Medal. In 2011, Purdue University recognized its alumnus with the formation of the Brian Lamb School of Communication.

Lamb and his wife, Victoria, are longtime residents of Arlington, Virginia.

Jasmine Linabary gave the student response. She received a Doctor of Philosophy degree in communication.

Commencement videos are available for $30 per DVD. Order forms can be obtained at the Loeb Playhouse box office, online at or by calling 765-494-3933. Forms may be submitted within two weeks of the event. 

Writer: Tim Doty, 765-496-2571,

Source: Christine Pass, 765-494-6163,

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