Kristen Welker bids a heartfelt farewell to 'Today' viewers, co-anchor Peter Alexander

Kristen Welker bid a heartfelt farewell to viewers and longtime co-anchor Peter Alexander during her final episode of NBC's "Today" show.

The Saturday "Today" anchor and chief White House correspondent for NBC News fought back tears this weekend as her colleagues surprised her with a studio visit from her husband and young daughter to celebrate her last episode on the morning news program.

Welker will begin the next chapter of her NBC News career next month as the new moderator of the network's long-running Sunday public affairs series, “Meet the Press,” succeeding Chuck Todd.

“You’ve left me completely speechless,” Welker said during Saturday's broadcast.

“I want to say to our viewers, thank you all for joining us every Saturday for this show that we are so proud of. To the entire weekend 'Today' team ... I am so grateful for all of you for making this a family."

Read more: Kristen Welker will succeed Chuck Todd on NBC's 'Meet the Press' in September

Leading the sendoff was Alexander, who thanked his co-anchor of three years for making their time together on "Today" so enjoyable.

“I would just say how much you have taught me," Alexander said. "The moments we have shared for the last three years, I will cherish as some of the best you ever get. Sometimes you don't realize how good you have it until it's gone."

Welker returned the favor, referring to Alexander as her "best friend" and likening him to a brother.

"Peter and I sat together a long, long time ago … and we said to each other, ‘What would it be like if we could anchor a show together?’" Welker recalled.

"It was just a dream that we talked about all the time. Peter, to get to anchor this show with you ... has been the greatest joy of all time. So thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Read more: Who is Kristen Welker? Meet the NBC News correspondent who will moderate the final presidential debate

Welker launched her NBC News career as an intern for "Today" before serving as a local anchor in Philadelphia and eventually covering the White House for the network starting in December 2011. During her time at the network, the veteran newscaster has reported on elections and moderated multiple presidential debates. Her approach to moderating the final presidential debate between Donald Trump and Joe Biden in October 2020 garnered national acclaim.

Since joining the Saturday "Today" team in 2020, Welker has spearheaded coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic, the George Floyd protests and the recent wildfires in Canada, among other major stories. She also documented her personal journey to starting a family, including her struggles with infertility and decision to welcome a daughter with the help of a surrogate.

Read more: Laura Jarrett named co-anchor of NBC's 'Saturday Today'

In June, longtime "Meet the Press" moderator Todd announced that Welker would be replacing him in the fall. Come September, Welker will make history as the second woman to lead the program since its 1947 inception, following Martha Rountree, who hosted until 1953, and the first Black woman to moderate a Sunday morning network public affairs program — among the most prestigious positions in TV news.

Welker will also command the daily version of “Meet the Press," "Meet the Press Now," on NBC News' streaming service.

Welker is "somebody who’s been ready for this for a long time," Todd said in June.

"I’ve had the privilege of working with her from essentially her first day here in Washington and let me just say she’s the right person in the right moment.”

Times staff writer Stephen Battaglio contributed to this report.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.