When Oprah Winfrey told her audience last week that she would end her daily show in 2011, after 25 years as the undisputed queen of daytime talk, she wasn't the only one to get teary-eyed.
Network executives have lumps in their throats. The authors she lifted from obscurity to the best-seller lists will certainly miss her influence. Then there are her 7 million viewers.
Ms. Winfrey gave voice to the aspirations of millions of women, from housewives to career women. Her popular show, in a sea of aggressive and crass competitors, was a conversation rooted in civility, hope and determination to make change for the better.
Along the way she became a role model to both genders and, arguably, the most transformative media figure of the last quarter-century. Ms. Winfrey's sensitivity to what makes great television, combined with her business acumen, made her a billionaire.
Like Bill Cosby and Michael Jordan, Oprah made Middle America comfortable with minorities by transcending the nation's difficult history of race. Born into poverty, she ascended the highest ladders of media and celebrity by sheer grit, talent and intelligence.
Now she's moving to cable to oversee the soon-to-be-launched Oprah Winfrey Network. While she is not expected to replicate her talk show there, she will no doubt resurface along with new programs made in her image.
Though her ratings have slipped recently, Oprah Winfrey continues to preside over the most successful talk show on television. Her adoring fans have 18 months to ride it out with her.