Community, Engagement, Belonging and Access; Student Affairs

Storyteller: Men of Color Summit MC Nigel Robertson knows firsthand the potential of young men of color


Chances are you know Nigel Robertson if you live in the Upstate and watch the local news. He’s seen by millions of people twice a day – at 6 pm and 11 pm – co-anchoring the newscast for NBC affiliate WYFF4. It’s a dream job for a news reporter. Some work their entire careers and never get in that seat, but Robertson has always had the work ethic and the smarts to get where he wants to go.

“I’ve always been a driven person,” says the always-affable Robertson during an interview in a classroom on the Clemson campus, where he teaches a storytelling class every Monday as an adjunct professor. “My parents gave me every opportunity I needed and provided a great foundation, but they didn’t grow up here and didn’t necessarily know anything about American journalism, so I had to take the reins and figure out how to make things happen.”

Many of his viewers might not know that Robertson is a first-generation American. His parents, Charles and Cicely Robertson, immigrated to the US from Trinidad and Tobago shortly after they married.

“They knew they were going to start a family, and they wanted their kids to have every opportunity possible,” says Robertson.

The family landed in Warren, Ohio, south of Cleveland, where Robertson’s father climbed the ladder from sweeping floors to being a plant supervisor for GM, and his mother did payroll at a steel mill.

Robertson graduated from Bowling Green University in 1997 with a communications degree and landed a job as a reporter for WYFF4 two years later. Clemson University was a part of his beat from the beginning, and over the years, he became a familiar face around campus. When organizers launched the Men of Color National Summit in 2018, it was a no-brainer for them to tap Robertson as the master of ceremonies.

Nigel Robertson speaks at the 2023 Men of Color National Summit.

“I think for Clemson’s part, humbly speaking, they imagined it might be powerful for the young men to see someone their parents and grandparents trust and invite in their house every day,” says Roberston. “Seeing the impact it had that first year and the caliber of people it brings in was mind-blowing. As the dad of three young men of color, I am so grateful to be a small part of it.”

The mission of the Clemson University Men of Color National Summit is to bridge the opportunity gap and illuminate pathways after high school for African American and Hispanic/Latinx males and their allies. Since its inception, the Summit has steadily grown in scale and reach to become one of South Carolina’s premier events focused on higher education. Each year, it brings together more than 2000 young men from around the country who spend two days getting VIP treatment and immersed in themes such as career and professional development, entrepreneurship, masculinity and personal identity, graduation achievement and community engagement. They hear inspirational speeches from astronauts, professional sports figures, members of Congress, and chief executive officers from major corporations, among others.

Robertson says the impact of the Summit truly hit home when his son, Ethan, a first-year student at Clemson studying economics, received his acceptance letter from the University.

“He graduated high school with exceptional grades, and Clemson was on his list, but he had several schools above it,” Robertson says. “I think he was nervous and didn’t want to build it up too much in his head and be let down. When that acceptance letter came, oh my gosh! You could see the joy and excitement wash over him. It was amazing. That gave me a whole new perspective of the Men of Color Summit because if my son was that excited about getting a letter from Clemson when both his parents graduated from college, imagine what it’s like for these young men who come from homes where mom and dad didn’t go to college, and maybe the knowhow to make it happen is not there. Those kids come to this conference, and they’re just blown away. They look at it like, ‘Wow, Clemson wants me!’ How powerful is that.”

Nigel Robertson poses with the Clemson Tiger during the opening of a new WYFF Clemson bureau in the Hendrix Student Center, Nov. 12, 2019.

Robertson loves to share his key to success with the young people he meets, which is simple but powerful.

“I try to find the best in people and add some fuel to that fire,” he says. “I want the people I have relationships with to feel fed. There are people who come in and out of your life who matter, and they hit you different. If they hit you different, there’s a reason why.”

Another key is to keep in touch with those people once you meet them.

“At the MOC, these young men meet so many people and are inspired by so many people. I tell them don’t let it end there. Connections are everything.”

Robertson, who owns two Emmy Awards for his reporting at WYFF, has used those rules to great effect in his career.

“I get a front-row seat to history as it happens, and I get to tell the story,” he says. “That’s a huge responsibility, but what a blessing for this first-generation kid from the wrong side of the tracks in Eastern Ohio.”

At the Men of Color National Summit, he loves showing young men in the next generation they have as much potential, if not more, than he did.

“Every single young man at MOC has a gift. We’re just showing them what they already have. What they do with it, and how they allow it to shape their tomorrow and their story, is up to them.”

Nigel Robertson behind the WYFF4 news desk.