As she launches her new NBC daytime talk show, The Meredith Vieira Show, premiering next Monday, the wife and mother of three sat down for this week's issue of PEOPLE to discuss the woman behind the journalist – and the choices that have led her to where she is today.
On the Choice of Education
"My parents putting me in a single-sex school had a great impact on who I am. I attended an all-girls Quaker school in Providence. From the start we were in uniforms, so it was about what we were doing with our heads, not what we were wearing on our bodies. We were encouraged to be loud in class, debate was a good thing, and all of it made me feel like the strongest person in the world."
On Choosing to Leave 60 Minutes
"As many people know, when I was a correspondent at 60 Minutes and pregnant with Gabe, my second child, the show's chief, Don Hewitt, told me I had to come back to work full-time soon after I gave birth. And so I said no to Don Hewitt. When confronted with either 'You stay here full-time or you're out of here,' I said, 'I'm not staying here,' and that night I slept like a baby – even though 60 Minutes was the only job I had truly coveted in this business."
On One of Her Best Choices
"I've been married for 28 years, and I would marry my husband [Richard Cohen] again tomorrow. The decision I made with him was more 'You're a jerk, and I'm going to marry you.' Like with saying no to Don Hewitt, I just knew it was right. To this day I can't put my finger on it: There was just something about him. It was maybe the way he teased me – it was obnoxious, but there was something there."
For more on Meredith Vieira's biggest life decisions, pick up a copy of this week's issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now