Spending 40 years in network news has allowed Katie Couric to interview some of the biggest celebrities in Hollywood — but the famed journalist doesn’t consider star power when recalling some of her favorite interviews.
In this week’s issue of PEOPLE (on stands Friday), Couric, 62, remembers eight women whom she interviewed who left an everlasting impact on her.
To start? Supreme Court justices Sandra O’Day Connor, Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
“I brought Justice Ginsburg a jabot [collar] I’d ordered from Italy because she’s famous for having an array of them,” she says of Ginsburg, whom she sat down with in 2014 and 2016.
“Justice O’Connor and I ate lunch in her chambers — I couldn’t believe I was there,” Couric adds. “What’s most interesting about all of them is what were the influences that led them down this path — they all come from pretty humble beginnings, whether it’s a cattle ranch in Arizona for Sandra Day O’Connor or Sonia Sotomayor from the Puerto Rican communities in the Bronx. I always want to know what shaped them.”
Couric also recalls her 1992 interview with Anita Hill, a woman many today believe was a pioneer in what eventually became the #MeToo movement, after Clarence Thomas’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings.
“I did one of the first interviews with Anita Hill and was so impressed that she came forward and testified on Capitol Hill. She has been such an important voice for women,” Couric says.
Seven years later, Couric sat down with Ann Richards, the former governor of Texas who died in 2006, and learned more than one lesson from her.
“She taught me the importance of being tough and thick-skinned,” Couric says. “I think many of the people I’ve interviewed exemplified those qualities — of being persistent, tenacious and resilient. I tried to learn through osmosis.”
- For more on Katie Couric, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands everywhere Friday
In 2006, Couric ended her time on the Today show with an unforgettable conversation with teacher and philanthropist Oral Lee Brown.
“Back in 1987 she promised every kid in her first-grade class that she’d pay for college if they graduated high school,” she recalls of Brown. “She did that every year for years — now she’s paid for more than 130 kids to go to college. There are a lot of remarkable people who are less well-known that I’ve been lucky to meet, and I like to raise up their stories.”
Couric also looks back at her 2013 interview with late TV legend Mary Tyler Moore as one that resonates with her today.
“I was raised on shows that really focus on women as housewives — to have someone like Mary Tyler Moore come along completely expanded my ideas about who I could become,” she says. “I’d watch every Saturday night in my friend’s basement and saw what the possibilities were. Interviewing her really made things come full circle.”
And finally, she calls congresswoman Gabby Giffords “inspiring.”
“She has shown such grit and grace,” she says of Giffords, an advocate against gun violence. “Her commitment to changing our country is just awe-inducing to me.”
This year Couric launched an e-newsletter, Wake Up Call, and a podcast, Next Question (available wherever you get your podcasts). She’s also partnering with PEOPLE on a new video series, #SeeHer Story. Watch for each new video every Friday.