NEW YORK -- NBC News opened the new year Tuesday by appointing Hoda Kotb as co-anchor of the "Today" show's first two hours with Savannah Guthrie, replacing Matt Lauer, who was fired in late November for "inappropriate sexual behavior."
Kotb, 53, will continue to co-host the show's fourth hour with Kathie Lee Gifford.
It will be the first all-female team headlining "Today" in the show's 65-year history. Diane Sawyer and Robin Roberts blazed that path for ABC's "Good Morning America" in the 2000s, but morning shows have traditionally paired a man and a woman as host.
"Hoda has seamlessly stepped into the co-anchor role alongside Savannah, and the two have quickly hit the ground running," NBC News Chairman Andy Lack said in a memo to staff on Tuesday. "They have an undeniable connection with each other and most importantly, with viewers, a hallmark of 'Today.'"
Lack said Kotb "has the rare ability to share authentic and heartfelt moments in even the most difficult news circumstances. It's a tribute to her wide range and her innate curiosity."
Kotb was born in Norman, Oklahoma, to parents of Egyptian descent, and raised in Morgantown, West Virginia. She graduated from Virginia Tech with a bachelor's degree in journalism.
She faced several hurdles on her road to clinching one of the top anchor jobs in TV. In an interview with Savannah Guthrie in 2016, Kotb recounted trying to land her first job out of college -- and getting rejected many times before getting a foot in the door.
"I assumed I would get a job in journalism… I was home and all my friends had jobs except me," Kotb said, explaining that she arrived with a resume tape at a station in Richmond, Virginia only be told she was "too green."
"I remember the news director said... you're too green, you're not good, you know... buh-bye."
She said she drove from local news station to local news station for 10 days, getting rejected by 27 news directors before landing an interview at a small station in Greenville, Mississippi, where news director Stan Sandroni gave her a chance.
"He puts the tape in the machine, he plays it. He watches this terrible, horrible 30 minutes. And my heart is pounding because I am watching Stan watch it," Hoda said. "And when it was over--I'll never forget it--he said, "Hilda...I like what I see."
"It just reminded me that you just need one person to love you. You don't need everybody."
Kotb joined NBC News in 1998 as a "Dateline NBC" correspondent, after working in local news in New Orleans. Her public profile increased with her wine-soaked pairing with Gifford on the show's informal fourth hour.
Kotb received the 2008 Alfred I. duPont –Columbia University award and the Peabody in 2006 for her "Dateline NBC" report "The Education of Ms. Groves." She is a four-time Emmy nominee and won the Edward R. Murrow Award in 2002.
"It's one of those things where you think you've done it all, you think you've felt it all," Kotb said in an interview with People Magazine last March, on becoming a mother at the age of 52. "But I just didn't know that this kind of love existed."