Katie Couric: The Truth Behind the Friendly Face

Katie Couric is one of the biggest names in journalism. She’s been a host on the big three US television networks – CBS, NBC, and ABC – and also created her own media company and hosted her own talk show.

Katie Couric / Katie Couric / Katie Couric / Sarah Palin.
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She’s had an amazing career and fascinating life filled with incredible accomplishments, but she has also had some dark personal moments. This is the full story of Katie Couric, the news anchor known as “America’s Sweetheart,” including her early years, her rise to the top of journalism, and her personal troubles.

Born in Virginia

The Katie Couric story begins on January 7, 1957, in the city of Arlington, Virginia. It was on that day and in that city that Katie’s parents, Elinor Tullie and John Martin Couric, Jr. welcomed little Katherine “Katie” Anne Couric into their lives.

Katie Couric attends an event.
Photo by Heather Wines/CBS

Katie was Elinor and John’s second daughter. Their other daughter, Emily Couric, was born in 1947, 10 years before her little sister. Katie’s mom was a homemaker, and her father worked as a public relations executive and news editor with the United Press in Washington, DC.

Very Interesting Ancestry

Katie came from a fascinating family. Her mother was Jewish, born to Jewish emigrants who had left Germany years earlier to seek a new life in the United States. Her father’s ancestry goes back to Europe with links to France, England, Scotland, and Germany.

A dated portrait of Katie at home.
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Later in life, Katie became curious about her origins and decided to trace her family tree as far back as she could. She discovered that on her father’s side she was descended from a French orphan who left France and traveled to the United States in the 1800s, later entering the cotton business.

Katie’s Childhood and Education

According to reports, Katie had a pleasant childhood. She attended local public schools in Arlington, graduating from Yorktown High School and quickly developing an interest in news and media. During her time in high school, she interned at WAVA, the Washington, DC, all-news radio station.

Katie poses for the press.
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After finishing high school, Katie moved on to the University of Virginia, the same university her father had attended. There she joined the Delta Delta Delta sorority and got involved with the university’s own daily newspaper, The Cavalier Daily. In 1979, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in American Studies.

An Early Passion for Journalism

Some children grow up not too sure about what they want to do in life or what kind of career path they plan to follow, but Katie wasn’t like that. She always seemed to know exactly what she wanted to do, and it was clear since she was a young girl that she was destined for a role in news media.

A dated image of Katie.
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She took inspiration from her father who worked as a news editor and grabbed any opportunity she could in high school and college to learn more about how newspapers and news shows were made. So after graduation, it was clear where Katie was headed next.

Joining ABC News

Not long after graduating, Katie Couric got her first official job in the world of news. She was hired by the ABC news bureau in Washington, DC. Not long after that, she started to build up her resume with additional roles.

A backstage photo of Katie.
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She moved to CNN to work as an assignment editor, and in the years that followed, she became a reporter with WTVJ in Miami and for NBC on WRC-TV. It was at WRC-TV that received an Associated Press award, as well as an Emmy.

A Hard-Fought Rise up the Ranks

In less than a decade, Katie had established herself as someone to watch in the world of news and had risen up in the ranks of the news world. She’d worked hard to get where she was, but it wasn’t always easy.

A photo of Katie at the Emmys.
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Katie recalls that as a woman in a male-dominated industry, she had to deal with certain judgments and rude comments. For example, in her early days at CNN, one of her bosses said her breast size had helped her get her job. Humiliated, Couric wrote a letter and demanded an apology from the man in question.

Moving to NBC

By 1989, Couric was already a big name in the news world and ready to make a big move. She decided to join the team at NBC News, initially working as the network’s Deputy Pentagon Correspondent. She later moved into an anchor substitute role, filling in for various network stars.

Jeff Zucker poses with Katie Couric and Bryant Gumble on the set of the Today Show.
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Bryant Gumbel, Jane Pauley, Deborah Norville, Connie Chung, Maria Shriver, and Faith Daniels were some of the people Katie filled in for on Today, Sunday Today, and the former NBC show NBC News at Sunrise. During that time, she got a lot of valuable experience.

Becoming an Official Today Host

In 1991, Katie Couric became a permanent co-anchor on the Today show. She had initially subbed for Deborah Norville who temporarily left the show on maternity leave. In the end, Norville didn’t come back, and Couric was offered her job on a permanent basis.

A large monitor displays Katie Couric of
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This was a huge development for Katie, and she continued to rise up the ranks from there. In 1994, she became co-anchor of the weekly show Now with Tom Brokaw and Katie Couric and then became the lead anchor on Dateline on NBC, spending more than a decade in that role and 15 years total at NBC.

Highly Influential Work

During her time at NBC, Katie did a lot of important and influential work. She was the host of the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade all through the 1990s and worked on a range of popular specials such as Everybody’s Business: America’s Children.

Katie Couric with Matt Lauer during her Today Show farewell in 2006.
Photo by Lisa Berg/NBC

Couric also got to co-host the opening ceremonies of the Olympic Games and has interviewed a long list of famous figures, including presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush, as well as celebrity figures such as J. K. Rowling.

Moving to CBS

Eventually, after many years at NBC, Katie decided the time was right to try something different. On April 5, 2006, she announced she was leaving the Today show. Later that day, CBS announced that Katie would become the new anchor of CBS Evening News.

Katie wipes her tears as she makes her final appearance on the Today Show.
Photo by Brian ZAK/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images

It was a huge announcement, and fans were eager to see how Katie would handle the move to a different network. What’s more, in moving to CBS, she officially became the highest-paid journalist on the planet, with an annual salary of $15 million per year.

Expectations Were High

At the time, CBS was struggling to compete in the ratings with other networks, and its evening news show was on the decline. The network hoped Couric would be able to revitalize the show. In other words, there was a lot of pressure on her.

A photo of Katie reporting for CBS.
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Unfortunately, Katie’s arrival did not have the network’s intended effect. Even though she made a lot of money and did help bring in some more viewers in her first few days as an anchor, CBS Evening News still trailed ABC World News and NBC Nightly News in the ratings.

Too Much Change

Looking back on her arrival at CBS, Katie feels that she and the network perhaps moved too fast and tried to change too many things too quickly, putting off some of their viewers in the process. Couric concluded, “I don’t think America was ready.”

Katie speaks during an interview.
Photo by Peter Kramer/Getty Images

“In retrospect, I would have given people what they were used to, a traditional newscast,” she said. “And then as they got to know me and got more comfortable, then I would’ve started toying with the format and trying new things. I think we were overly ambitious.”

She Still Did a Lot of Great Work

Even though Katie’s move to CBS didn’t quite work out the way everyone had hoped in terms of revitalizing the network and boosting the ratings, she still did a lot of important work for the network in the years she was there.

A still of Katie broadcasting for CBS.
Source: YouTube

She led the network’s political coverage for the 2006 midterms, the 2008 presidential election, and the 2010 midterms. She also interviewed many celebrities and politicians, including Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, George W. Bush, and Michael J. Fox.

The Palin Interviews

One of Katie’s crowning achievements during her time at CBS was her series of interviews with Sarah Palin, the 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee. The interviewers were filmed and aired leading up to the 2008 presidential election and were believed to have an impact on the results of the election.

Sarah Palin speaks about the former interview.
Source: YouTube

In the interviews, Couric demonstrated all her journalistic talents, repeatedly asking probing questions and catching Palin on her alleged lack of knowledge in certain areas. Katie won a Walter Cronkite Award for Journalism Excellence for the interviews and played a major part in affecting the public’s opinion of Palin.

60 Minutes and CBS Reports

During her time at CBS, Katie Couric also worked on two of the network’s biggest shows: 60 Minutes and CBS Reports. On 60 Minutes, she contributed up to eight stories per year and was famously the first person to interview Chesley Sullenberger, the pilot who managed to land a US Airways flight in the Hudson River.

An image of Katie broadcasting news.
Source: YouTube

On CBS Reports, Katie held the position of lead reporter from 2009 through 2011. She handled a variety of important reports, covering a wide range of subjects and winning an Alfred DuPont Award for Excellence in Journalism for her work.

The @katiecouric Show

Katie also made the move into the digital world while working at CBS. She set up her own weekly show called @katiecouric that aired exclusively on CBSNews.com. On the show, which lasted an hour each week, Katie interviewed various guests.

An image of Katie Couric / A dated photo of Justin Bieber.
Photo by Emma McIntyre, Getty Images / Dominique Charriau, WireImage, Getty Images

She carried out a range of fascinating interviews for @katiecouric, including a one-on-one with singer Justin Bieber, a frank chat with Australian actor Hugh Jackman, and a political discussion with former Vice President Al Gore. Other famous faces she interviewed for the show included Shakira, Michelle Obama, Jane Lynch, and Ellen DeGeneres.

Returning to ABC

After five years at CBS with some ups and downs along the way, Couric made the decision to go somewhere else. Toward the end of her time at the network, rumors had already started that she might leave, and the CBS chairman had stated that Couric’s salary simply wasn’t sustainable.

An image of Katie speaking on stage.
Photo by Leigh Vogel/WireImage/Getty Images

In 2011, Katie returned to ABC where she had landed her first job in the news media back in 1979. She took on the role of special correspondent, and her first appearance was an interview with actress Sarah Jessica Parker.

The Launch of Her Own Talk Show

This was a really big time for Katie and served as a transitional period for her career. She had gradually moved away from the nighttime news shows that had dominated her time at CBS and into a combination of ABC special correspondent and a daytime role with the launch of her own talk show, Katie.

Jennifer Lopez visits
Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage/Getty Images

Couric was awarded a whopping $40 million contract from ABC to host the show, which debuted in September 2012. Her show attracted a lot of viewers, especially in its first season, and blended elements of Today and The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Moving to Yahoo! News

Katie spent a few years with ABC but eventually agreed to put an end to her daytime show because of low ratings. She made a new move, this time to Yahoo! News where she was hired by CEO Marissa Mayer and entered the role of global anchor.

Katie visits the NASDAQ MarketSite in New York.
Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images

Couric continued to work with both ABC and Yahoo! News for a few years in various roles but eventually decided to move away from Yahoo! News after Verizon purchased the company. She then started to focus more on her own production company, Katie Couric Media, that she founded in 2015.

“America’s Sweetheart”

During her long and storied career, Katie Couric has become known as “America’s Sweetheart.” She’s been famed for her fun personality, approachability, and accessible manner of delivering the news. She’s also served as an inspiration to many people, especially women and girls across the United States and around the world.

A dated portrait of Katie Couric.
Photo by Anthony Barboza/Getty Images

In interviews, Katie admitted that she always liked pleasing people and tried to make everyone happy throughout her career, but ultimately, she realized that she couldn’t please everyone. Still, she appears to have many more fans than detractors and has won countless awards and honors throughout her professional life.

Film and TV Work

Since Katie became such a huge celebrity in her own right, it didn’t take long for movie studios to give her a call and offer her some cameo roles and guest appearances in their projects. For example, she was the voice of reporter Katie Current in the movie Shark Tale.

A promotional still of the movie Shark Tale.
Source: Moviestillsdb.com/ Copyright: Dreamworks Pictures

Couric has also had cameo roles in everything from the long-running soap opera General Hospital to the comedy spy movie Austin Powers in Goldmember. She also appeared in an episode of Pawn Stars and was famously a subhost on Jeopardy! in 2021, becoming the first female to ever host the show.

An Award-Winning Writer

You might think that Katie’s life is so full with all her journalistic work that she simply wouldn’t have time for other projects. But she has somehow found time to become a best-selling author, writing a couple of children’s books and a nonfiction essay collection.

Katie speaks on stage.
Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images

Katie’s children’s books are The Brand-New Kid and The Blue Ribbon Day. The former made it to the top of the New York Times best-seller list and was even turned into a musical. Her book of essays, The Best Advice I Ever Got: Lessons from Extraordinary Lives, was also very well-received. Couric donates all her profits to Scholarship America.

An Esteemed Documentary Producer

In addition to her cameo roles in films, her TV work, her journalistic work, her production company, and her writing, Katie has also managed to become a highly successful executive producer for various films and documentaries. One of them, Fed Up (2014), looked at the issue of obesity in the United States.

Katie speaks on stage during a conference.
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She has also worked as an executive producer for documentaries such as Under the Gun that looked at gun violence and the Netflix true crime series Unbelievable. As part of her work with Katie Couric Media, she teamed up with National Geographic to produce documentaries and films, including Gender Revolution and Flint.

Meeting the Love of Her Life

Katie Couric’s media career is, of course, a huge part of her life, but she also has a rich personal life behind the scenes. Back in the early days of her career at NBC, she met a man who would change her whole story.

A picture of Katie and Jay attending an event.
Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images

That man was John Paul “Jay” Monahan III. He and Katie first met at a winter party in northern Virginia. Katie can remember the wonderful joy she felt in those early moments of their relationship. In her memoir, she wrote about “the sheer joy of starting out, starting our lives together.”

Katie Made the First Move

As her career has shown, time and again Katie has never been afraid to defy gender conventions or feel like she has to act a certain way just because of her gender. So when she saw Jay that night, she wasn’t afraid to make the first move.

A dated picture of Katie and Jay during an event.
Photo by Robin Platzer/Getty Images

“Why should I be the one sitting by the phone singing, ‘Let it please be him…’? I don’t think I have a shy bone in my body. But also, I am terrified of rejection… I think I knew Jay liked me too,” she explained in an interview with People magazine.

A Kind and Caring Man

There were many things about Jay that Katie fell for. She loved his appearance, but she also loved the man underneath who she often described as funny, kind, and caring. In interviews throughout her life, Katie has only ever had kind things to say about Jay.

A picture of Katie at home.
Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Couric explained, “He always made me feel safe, whether he was guiding me on the dance floor or explaining what was happening if there was turbulence on the airplane. Because he’d gone to flight school, he’d be like, ‘Right now the flaps are doing this.’ And he was funny.”

Married in 1989

The connection between Katie and Jay was clear for everyone to see, so it wasn’t too long before they decided to get engaged and start planning their marriage. In 1989, they officially tied the knot and later became parents to two girls: Elinor (“Ellie”) and Caroline (“Carrie”).

A photo of Katie, Jay and Elinor.
Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images

They were very happy together, and Katie stated that John was always “very supportive” of her, especially in terms of encouraging her with her career and always believing in her. While Katie was rising up in the media ranks, Jay worked as an attorney.

Overcoming Some Challenging Moments

Jay and Katie had a very happy marriage, but they still encountered some challenges along the way. Katie revealed in interviews that the couple experienced some difficulties when Katie’s career really started to take off and she began “making more money than I ever dreamed of making.”

Katie attends an event.
Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

Since there was such a big difference in the amount of money they were making, Katie recalls that she and Jay had some difficulties and tensions. She said Jay wasn’t jealous, but “I think he felt slightly diminished” due to her success.

Long-Lasting Love

Even though they had some challenges and experienced some major shifts in their life over the years, Katie and Jay stayed strong and enjoyed a long-lasting and love-filled relationship. Sadly, a tragedy was waiting around the corner.

A portrait of Katie Couric.
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In the mid-1990s, Jay was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer. From that point on, Katie’s life was never the same. “It was a really scary time for everybody,” she admits, adding that she found relief and comfort in her work. “Working was my salvation,” she admitted. “It helped me maintain my sanity.”

Jay Passes Away

Jay fought hard against cancer, and Katie supported him the whole way. But sadly, he wasn’t able to beat it. He passed away in 1998 at the age of 42. It was a devastating loss for Katie and the couple’s two children.

A photo of Katie leaving a memorial service.
Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images

Jay had been the love of Katie’s life, and she believes that if he hadn’t passed away, their marriage would have lasted many more years and gotten even stronger over time. But it wasn’t to be, and the loss of Jay made Katie fully aware of, in her own words, “the fragility of life.”

An Agonizing Loss

It’s never pleasant to lose someone you love, and the loss of Jay was particularly harsh for Katie since he was so young when he died. It felt to Katie like he’d been taken from her far too soon. To try to recover, she immersed herself in her work and found comfort and support in friends and family.

A portrait of Katie Couric.
Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

Katie has written extensively in her memoir about her emotions in dealing with the loss of Jay. She has regrets about how she handled the situation and said, “I did everything I could to keep Jay alive. Looking back, I wish I had done a better job helping him die.” But even though it was a difficult moment, she has learned to move on.

Honoring His Memory

After losing her husband so early in their life together, Katie was determined to honor his memory and take action in order to potentially save some lives and prevent other couples and families from being torn apart due to cancer. So she decided to speak up and raise some awareness.

Katie speaks during a press conference.
Photo by George Napolitano/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Katie became a significant spokesperson for colon cancer awareness. She openly discussed the disease on TV to make people aware of the risks and encourage people to get checked, even going so far as to have a colonoscopy on air in March 2000.

The “Couric Effect”

Katie’s dedication to raising awareness about the dangers and risks of colon cancer had a huge effect. In fact, a study in Archives of Internal Medicine concluded that Katie’s awareness campaign helped to potentially save a lot of lives since she encouraged many people to get colonoscopies.

Katie poses for the press.
Photo by Brian ZAK/Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images

The authors of the study concluded, “This illustrates the possibility that a well-known individual can draw attention and support to worthwhile causes.” This phenomenon went on to become known as the “Couric Effect.” But Katie wasn’t done there. She still wanted to raise more awareness.

More Work for Cancer

In 2005, during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Katie broadcast her own mammogram on the Today show. By doing that, she hoped to trigger another “Couric Effect” and encourage more women to get screened for breast cancer.

Katie poses for the press during an event.
Photo by PATRICK MCMULLAN/Patrick McMullan/Getty Images

Katie also got involved with the National Hockey League’s “Hockey Fights Cancer” campaign and did voice work and promo work for the league. She has also been spotted at various events and fundraisers that were dedicated to fighting cancer. She has become one of the world’s biggest voices in terms of making people understand the risks of cancer and the benefits of getting tested.

Katie’s Sister Emily

Katie Couric is one of four children. She had two sisters, Clara Couric Batchelor and Emily Couric, and a brother, John M. Couric Jr. Like Katie, Emily chose a career path that made her a very well-known person.

A portrait of Emily Couric / A photo of Katie Couric.
Photo by Greg Mathieson, Mai, Getty Images / Mark Wilson, Getty Images

Emily entered the world of politics, becoming a Democratic state senator for her home state of Virginia. Since she shared a surname with her famous sibling, Emily was often asked if she was related to Katie. Sadly, fate had a tragic end in store for Emily.

Losing Her Sister

In October 2001, only a few years after losing her husband to cancer, Katie lost her sister to pancreatic cancer at the age of 54. Before her passing, Emily was expected to possibly become Virginia’s first female governor.

A portrait of Katie Couric.
Photo by George De Sota/Getty Images

It was a heartbreaking experience for Katie and the rest of the family to live through. Katie has honored her sister’s memory by sharing pictures and posts on social media every year on what would have been Emily’s birthday.

Taking Time to Heal

After losing both her husband and her sister in a relatively short span of time, Katie needed some time to heal before getting close to anyone else. She did a lot of work raising awareness about cancer in the years following the losses of Jay and Emily. It was actually at a cancer fundraiser in 2006 that she met another important person in her life.

An image of Katie leaving a memorial service.
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

That man was Brooks Perlin, an entrepreneur who was 33 when he met Katie. She was 50 at the time. Various newspapers and magazines commented on the age difference between the couple, but Katie didn’t seem to mind.

Starting to Date

Brooks and Katie first started chatting during that Manhattan cancer event and quickly arranged a date. Katie admits that she was a little nervous at first due to the age difference but agreed to have dinner with Brooks, and their relationship started to blossom from there.

An image of Brooks and Katie during a game at Madison Square.
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In the weeks and months that followed, the pair was spotted enjoying nights out at various luxurious locations across the United States, including the Rose Bar at the Gramercy Park Hotel in Manhattan, the ski slopes of Sun Valley, and the Super Bowl in Miami.

A Five-Year Relationship

Katie ended up spending five years with Brooks, and she has a lot of positive memories from that time. In an interview with People, she said she “had a really fun time” and called Brooks “a really good person.”

A photo of Katie and Brooks attending an event.
Photo by Paul Morigi/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Katie also admitted that she enjoyed the “scandalous” aspect of the relationship. “You know, I’d never done anything particularly scandalous…. And I think it was during a time when I was really struggling professionally, and I think I had just a real ‘screw it’ attitude. Like, I’m going to have a good time. And that’s what I did.”

An Inevitable Split

Even though Katie had a ton of fun with Brooks, she said she always knew their relationship wouldn’t last. “I didn’t think it was a forever thing,” she admitted, and one of her friends revealed that “the split was inevitable.”

A picture of Katie at the time.
Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images

The pair decided to split up in December 2011 and parted on amicable terms. At the time, Katie was in her mid-50s, and fans wondered if she might find another man to settle down with or if she would continue simply having fun in the dating scene. Well, it didn’t take long for another man to enter her life.

Meeting John Molner

No less than a year after Couric and Perlin split up, the Today star met a new beau, John Molner. He was a financier who worked as the head of mergers and acquisitions at Brown Brothers Harriman. He was 49 when he met Couric, and she was 55.

Katie and John attend an event.
Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Tabloids started following the couple and spotted them in various locations. It didn’t take long for their relationship to move to the next stage, and Molner asked Couric to marry him while they were enjoying a romantic sunset moment at Katie’s home in The Hamptons on Long Island.

A Happy Marriage

Katie Couric and John Molner got engaged in September 2013 and were married a year later in the summer of 2014. They tied the knot at a private and very traditional ceremony in The Hamptons that was attended by only their nearest and dearest family members.

A picture of Katie and John at a restaurant.
Photo by Paul Bruinooge/Patrick McMullan/Getty Images

“We wanted to keep the wedding just very low-key,” explained Couric, going on to reveal how her daughters gave readings during the ceremony and Couric’s youngest daughter, Carrie, sang for them. Molner’s children were also present and gave readings of their own.

Happily, Ever After

Katie and John are still married and appear to be very happy together. They even started hosting their own show, setting up an online cooking series called Full Plate with Katie & John that airs on the Sur La Table website.

A photo of Katie and John during a dinner party.
Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

Katie has revealed in interviews that she still thinks of her former husband, Jay, often and will never forget his memory. She also says she is happy in her current relationship and content to have found someone she can feel comfortable with. It seems that she got the happy ending she always hoped for.

A True Trendsetter

Katie Couric has led an extraordinary life so far. She’s suffered some ups and downs in her personal as well as professional life but has always shown grit and had the courage to battle through those hard times and come out even stronger on the other side.

A dated portrait of Katie.
Photo By Evan Agostini/Getty Images

Her list of professional accomplishments is incredible, from her time on Today to her work with CBS Evening News, 60 Minutes, the Palin interviews, and her Katie daytime show. She’s an award winner, a trend-setter, a breaker of barriers, and an inspiration to many. She has rightfully earned her nickname “America’s Sweetheart.”