Baylor student meets longtime inspiration on ‘Today’ show

Austin junior Nolan Screen smiles after meeting "Today" show anchor Hoda Kotb, a longtime role model to him. Photo courtesy of Nolan Screen.

By Erianne Lewis | Arts and Life Editor

When Austin junior Nolan Screen woke up at 5 a.m. on Aug. 3, he had no idea that a few hours later, he would be interviewed by one of his role models on national television. That morning, Screen caught a train from New Jersey to the “Today” show’s studio in New York City. Within a few hours, he appeared on the show and was able to meet a true inspiration to him in “Today” show anchor Hoda Kotb, who he had written a letter to 10 years prior.

To his surprise, she wrote back, which is something “Today” show anchor Craig Melvin said she always does. A decade later, Kotb remembered Screen and the letter he had written all those years ago, and she was brought to tears.

“To see her reaction was something that was priceless for me,” Screen said. “She wasn’t just reacting for the camera; I could tell she actually meant her reaction. It’s kind of cool being able to be like, ‘Wow, I actually made an impact on her too.’”

Screen said Kotb began to tear up to the point that the hair and makeup crew came out to give her a few touch-ups. Kotb was surprised by the realization that she had made such a strong impact on him that he was moved to pursue journalism further, Nolan said.

“Today” show producer Kevin Schatell was also there during Screen and Kotb’s encounter. Schatell spoke highly of Screen’s kindness and enthusiasm and said he knew Kotb was moved by the chance meeting, as it was apparent in her eyes.

“Hoda is the epitome of a role model,” Schatell said. “She leads with her heart and goes above and beyond to make others feel seen.”

Screen transferred from St. Edwards University in Austin in the spring semester, after realizing Baylor had a journalism program that he felt may be a better fit for him.

Screen said ultimately, he wants to be a broadcast reporter, aiming to make it on national television. He said he wants to give viewers the best possible experience through his reporting.

Screen said this semester, he is most excited to experience the year-round Baylor traditions that he couldn’t participate in prior to this semester.

Other than Kotb, Screen said he looks to his family for inspiration, as well as journalists on shows like “60 Minutes” and “Sunday Morning.”

David Yeomans, local meteorologist from the Austin NBC affiliate station (KXAN), has transformed from another role model and inspiration into more of a mentor for Screen.

“[Yeomans] went to my high school, and we are now friends,” Screen said. “He’s been helping me kind of go through the journalism career, and he’s been an extremely great mentor.”