LSU Alumni Spotlight

2023 Hall of Distinction Nominee: Donna Dees-Thomases

Dees-Thomases graduated from LSU in 1979 with a degree in journalism, and later received her master’s degree from Northwestern University.

LSU8161 Donna Dees-Thomases

Dees-Thomases graduated from LSU in 1979 with a degree in journalism, and later received her master’s degree from Northwestern University. Donna Dees-Thomases’ professional career primarily at the CBS Television Network ranged from publicizing comedy gags at the Late Show with David Letterman to amplifying some of the most dramatic world events that otherwise might have been just another story on CBS News.
Her highest profile role was serving as lead spokesperson during the forty days a CBS News crew was held captive in Iraq at the start of Desert Storm in1991. In his memoir “Forty Days,” correspondent Bob Simon wrote that Donna “managed the flow of information during our captivity so effectively that neither the truth nor our survival prospects were compromised.”
Dees-Thomases left CBS in 1994 shortly before the birth of her first daughter, Lili. After the birth of her second daughter, Phoebe, she returned in a newly created position as co-director of communications for the Late Show with David Letterman. As evidence of her widely respected reputation, and a win for women, the co-directorship was the first CBS sanctioned job share for mothers.
In 1999 during a Late Show vacation week, Dees-Thomases was so outraged over a White Supremacist’s attack on a Jewish day camp in California, she used her public relations skills to launch the Million Mom March held on Mother’s Day 2000. It was the largest protest ever held on the National Mall in the pre-social media age.
In 2004, she penned “Looking for a Few Good Moms,” a memoir about organizing on a grand scale. The book was honored by Oprah with a “Chutzpah Award” for its boldness.
Dees-Thomases returned to CBS News in 2004 to help publicize the storied career of Dan Rather as he retired from the anchor desk. In 2005 she launched an unprecedented public service initiative called “Katrina’s Missing” in which she convinced the entire CBS Network (followed by CNN) to use its airtime to help reunite Gulf Coast families separated by Hurricane Katrina. “Katrina’s Missing” earned her a place in the Manship Hall of Fame at LSU in 2014.
She left CBS in 2013 to begin filming her first documentary “Five Awake.” Winning BEST LOUISIANA FEATURE at the 2016 New Orleans Film Festival, “Five Awake” tells the story of the women advocating for legislative reforms to lower Louisiana’s tragically high rate of domestic violence homicide.
In 2021, Dees-Thomases was featured in Glamour Magazine’s hardcover book “30 Years of Women Who Have Re-Shaped the World.” The book’s forward sums up the selection as a celebration of 100 women “who place civic engagement squarely in front of their forward-facing talents and perceived fame.”

LSU8173 Alumni Hall of Distinction 2023 (1)

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"I credit every success in my life to LSU, especially to Dr. Elsie Hebert’s public relations class. Dr. Hebert taught me how to use publicity to uplift worthy causes. And, as lagniappe, that class connected me to a mentor – Dan Borne. Mentors, as we know, play life-changing roles in shaping careers—as did mine. I’ve tried to pay that gift forward by mentoring others. I will be forever grateful." - Donna Dees-Thomases


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