By Chancellor Agard
Updated November 14, 2016 at 08:39 PM EST
Alex Wong/Getty Images for Meet the Press

Gwen Ifill, the longtime co-anchor and managing editor of PBS NewsHour and one of the leading African-American journalists, died early Monday following several months of cancer treatment,PBS confirmed in a statement. She was 61.

“Gwen was a standard bearer for courage, fairness and integrity in an industry going through seismic change. She was a mentor to so many across the industry and her professionalism was respected across the political spectrum. She was a journalist’s journalist and set an example for all around her,” said Sara Just, PBS NewsHour executive producer and WETA-TV SVP, in a statement. “So many people in the audience felt that they knew and adored her. She had a tremendous combination of warmth and authority. She was stopped on the street routinely by people who just wanted to give her a hug and considered her a friend after years of seeing her on tv. We will forever miss her terribly.”

“It is with extreme sadness that we share the news that Gwen Ifill passed away earlier today surrounded by family and friends,” said PBS president and CEO Paula Kerger in a statement. “Gwen was one of America’s leading lights in journalism and a fundamental reason public media is considered a trusted window on the world by audiences across the nation. Her contributions to thoughtful reporting and civic discourse simply cannot be overstated.”

The statement continues: “She often said that her job was to bring light rather than heat to issues of importance to our society. Gwen did this with grace and a steadfast commitment to excellence. Our sorrow at her passing is a part of our profound gratitude for all that she did for our system and our nation. It was an honor to know Gwen and to work with her. All of us at PBS express our sincere condolences to Gwen’s friends and family.”

Ifill, who was also the moderator and managing editor of Washington Week, has had some health problems this year. In April, Ifill went on leave of absence to address some health issues; however, she returned to her duties in May.

On Wednesday, Ifill was supposed to receive the John Chancellor Award from Columbia University for her cumulative achievements in journalism. “Gwen Ifill’s career embodies the best of our profession and the spirit of the John Chancellor Award: her unflinching pursuit of the truth, healthy skepticism of those in power and her commitment to fairness,” said Steve Coll, dean of the Columbia Journalism School, in August.

The veteran journalist has covered several presidential campaigns and moderated the 2004 and 2008 vice-presidential debates. Before joining PBS in 1999, she was chief congressional correspondent for NBC News, a White House correspondent for the New York Times, and a reporter for the Washington Post.