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Cronkite Community Reacts to Passing of Former CBS News Anchor

The following statements are in response to the death of former CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite, the namesake of Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Dr. Michael M. Crow
President, Arizona State University

"Walter Cronkite's legacy will be experienced for years to come through the ASU school that bears his name. Students who learn the craft of journalism at the university are held to the same basic tenets that Cronkite exemplified throughout his career – accuracy, timeliness and fairness. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his family and friends at this difficult time."

Christopher Callahan
Dean, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication

“Walter Cronkite was and will always be journalism’s gold standard. He embodied – better than anyone before him or since – the very best attributes of great journalism: accuracy, objectivity, fairness, truth-telling. For the past 25 years, Walter served as the intellectual and inspirational guiding light for the school that so proudly bears his name. The Cronkite School’s foundation is built on Walter’s journalistic values and personal integrity.

“One of the great pleasures in my life has been watching Walter together with his students. Though separated by generations, the bonds are deep and real. Walter told a group of Cronkite students during his last visit to campus how much he cherished them and the school. And they knew he meant it, because they felt the same way.

“We lost today not only a great journalist, but a great man and a dear friend. The faculty, students, staff, board and supporters of the Cronkite School will all miss him deeply. But if we – through our teaching of the next generation of journalists – hold dear each and every day the values of integrity, objectivity and truth-telling that Walter embodied, then we will provide Walter the kind of permanent legacy that he so richly deserves.”

Fred W. Smith
Chairman, Donald W. Reynolds Foundation

“Walter Cronkite will long be remembered for his straightforward approach in delivering the evening news. His ethical integrity will remain as the standard for journalists and journalism students alike. Even though the method in which news is delivered has and will continually change, the character traits embodied by Walter Cronkite will endure forever.”

Win Holden
President, Cronkite Endowment Board of Trustees and
Publisher, Arizona Highways Magazine

“Many of my fondest memories of Walter involved his interaction with the students from his namesake school at ASU. During his visits to the campus, students were consistently spellbound by his firm but gentle counsel, war stories and his constant admonitions about the importance of ethical behavior, never taking shortcuts, absolute accuracy and double-checking, then triple-checking sources. Walter never talked down to the students. He treated them as colleagues and he clearly understood his stature as a role model and counselor. Further, he clearly cherished his time with them.

“In my personal dealings with Walter, which were all too few, he was always a gentleman and thoughtfully expressed his appreciation to me and other board members who served his school. He cared deeply about ASU and the Cronkite School and was fully involved in the design and construction of the new downtown campus facility. He was especially proud of the college’s state-of-the-art facilities and how generations of new journalists will carry his name on their diplomas, taking with them cutting-edge tools Walter could not possibly have imagined when he was a foreign correspondent during World War II, but which fascinated him as he discovered, right along with the students, how to incorporate new means of disseminating news and information.

“It is a major understatement to say the mold was broken when Walter Cronkite assumed the anchor chair at CBS. It is an even greater understatement to say he will be missed. Of note, ASU is blessed to have many hours of videotape, writings and very fond memories of his participation with his school – the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Rest in peace, Walter, and rest assured that the legacy you leave to the profession you helped to shape will benefit from the exemplary manner in which you conducted yourself personally and professionally.”

Tom Chauncey II
Attorney, Gust Rosenfeld

Chauncey and his father, the longtime owner of the CBS affiliate in Phoenix, played an integral role in the journalism program at ASU being named in honor of Cronkite in 1984.

“My dad and I placed a call to Walter Cronkite and asked if he would be interested in a new kind of journalism school. Walter was intrigued with the idea of a new kind of journalism that would be supported by people who were really doing journalism. So he willingly gave his name to the school, with the promise that the school would be supported by the local newspapers, the local broadcasters … the people in the community who really wanted to build a new kind of journalism to teach not only the trust and the ethics that Walter embodied, but how to really do it and how to do it in a new way.”

Samuel Burke
May 2009 Cronkite Graduate

"When I started my master’s degree at the Cronkite School, I thought at best I’d get to sit in an auditorium with hundreds of other students and hear Mr. Cronkite speak. I never thought he’d take the time to shake hands with students and ask them questions. And I certainly never thought he’d take the time to chat and ask questions about me.

Mr. Cronkite was at the school in 2007 for a meet-and-greet with friends and donors. The Cronkite School made sure to include students, and I was lucky enough to get the chance to slip into the room. People kept crowding around Mr. Cronkite to introduce themselves, but I finally worked my way to the front and ended up right next to him.

Like any good journalism student, I had dozens of questions ready to ask an icon. But as soon I shook his hand, he started asking me questions:

“Where are you from originally? What subjects are you focusing on at the journalism school? What type of stories interests you? Where you do want to report?”

I told him I spoke Spanish and that I’d like to report from Latin America one day. He said, “Spanish? That’s where it’s at … Keep doing that.” He deflected all the celebrity from himself and gave me reporting advice – then kept the questions rolling.

In the end, I hadn’t asked him a single thing I had planned to ask. Like a good reporter HE asked all the questions.

I told him how much I was enjoying my studies at the school that bears his name. And he told me that in this phase of his life, the Cronkite School was the most important thing to him.

Hearing that was the ultimate motivator. I wanted to uphold the Cronkite legacy. I wanted to be the reporter he always was."

Josh Davis
May 2004 Cronkite Graduate

"Walter Cronkite changed the course of my young career when he agreed to sit down with me for a 15-minute interview during my freshman year at Arizona State. I was just starting out, looking to make a splash, and he was happy to oblige. It turned into a 40-minute chat highlighting just some of the momentous moments of his career. He was candid, engaged and spirited, answering most questions with a twinkle in his eye, seeming to enjoy the fact a student who was born the year after he left the “CBS Evening News” was so interested.

Mr. Cronkite came back to ASU each year after that during my education and sat down with me for long follow-up interviews each time. He indulged every question and sprinkled humor throughout his vast recollection of seemingly every detail of his life and career.

Today, as I work as a reporter on the East Coast, striving to follow the standard that Mr. Cronkite set, I keep an autographed picture of the two of us sitting on my dresser. I wake up each day and pass it as I get ready for work. It helps me remember the great man who stood for something, who reported everything and who meant so much to so many people. I was so lucky to have known him.

Douglas Anderson
Former director of the Cronkite School;
Dean, College of Communications
The Pennsylvania State University

Everything changed — at least symbolically — for our program when we were able to answer the telephone with these words: “Cronkite School.” Simple as that. That greeting, at least semantically, automatically elevated us to the next level.

Of course, I'll always remember one time when Walter called the school. We had just hired a new staff assistant who was sharp as a tack, quick and witty. I just happened to be passing by her desk when I heard her say, with a wink at me, "Oh, sure it is. How's it going Walter? How ya doin'?" Then her eyes got bigger and she stammered: "Is this really you, Mr. Cronkite?"

She then handed me the receiver, and before I had it tight to my ear, I could hear Walter's great baritone laugh.

From Day One, Walter could not have been more supportive. I was more than 30 years younger than him, and I thought I had great energy. But he would routinely out-work me as he put in 16-hour days on our behalf during his visits to the school — beginning with breakfasts and then moving to classroom lectures, small-group meetings with students and evening social sessions with friends, alums and donors spread across the Valley. And he'd be fresh as a daisy when we would take him back to his hotel.

He was always impeccably dressed and Brooks Brothers comfortable: crisply pressed gray trousers, blue blazers, button-down shirts, rep ties and polished black tasseled loafers for the heavy work days; beautifully draped gray suits, spread collars and conservative ties for the big Cronkite luncheons.

I remember his enjoyment meeting with students. I remember his genuine excitement when he would hear about the school's progress and the nationally recognized accomplishments of its students. And I remember the little things, too: his desire occasionally to head for a quiet evening at some out-of-the-way Mexican restaurant (he always said he liked to escape his admirers, though his wife, Betsy, always piped up that, deep down, he would be disappointed if someone at the restaurant didn't make a fuss over him); his like-clockwork telephone calls — often from a cell phone while we were driving to our next appointment — to his mother, who lived into her 100s; his every-once-in-a-while last-minute requests for us to set up an early-morning tennis match, with Bob Ellis always coming through for us; and Walter's beautifully prepared — and delivered — introductions of our Cronkite Award recipients.

Most of all, I remember his graciousness, his sincerity, his enthusiasm, his energy, his loyalty to "his" school and his marvelously contextual answers to questions, delivered without a single "uh." I guess I especially remember admiring his fluid and multi-layered answers to questions — despite his increasing
inability through the years to hear questions clearly, especially from those with higher-pitched voices. He always nailed the answers — often without hearing the entire question. It was amazing.

He was a great man: the journalistic giant of his generation, and, for all intents and purposes, the founding father of what has become a great journalism school.

John Hook
Anchor, FOX 10, Phoenix, and 1983 Cronkite graduate

“My first memory of Walter Cronkite is that of a 3-year-old boy.

It was Nov. 22, 1963, and a newscaster interrupted my daily viewing of Romper Room, informing the nation of the death of President John F. Kennedy. Although I was too young to understand the gravity of what he was reporting, his face and voice would become inextricably woven into my childhood.

In the following years, he guided us through a series of dramatic events: Gemini launches, the Vietnam War, man walking on the moon and the resignation of a president. He gave us the news in measured tones and always with a sense of humanity that gave a nation reassurance in difficult times.

Journalists owe him a large debt of gratitude. He provided all of us a template for success: the story comes first; be accurate; be fair and treat people and the viewers with respect. Journalism will not see the likes of him again. But his imprint will remain.”

Arthur Mobley
General Manager, NPTV, Channel 44.4 Digital TV

"I've been a board member and colleague on the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism Endowment Board here at ASU for more than 15 years. I knew Mr. Cronkite and feel like I've lost a friend.

The best way to remember a man is to walk in his footsteps. The best way to remember Walter is to struggle to create the independent state of journalism he envisioned and mold the journalists so they have the skills and ethical standards to toil in the field.

Mr. Cronkite once said that his life was relatively unremarkable and that a man's life should be measured by the impact he has. He felt his life had little impact on how things shaped up, particularly in the news business. I could see his point, and told him I could agree only on the latter.

I remember Ted Kennedy eulogizing his brother Bobby saying he, "...Saw wrong and tried to make it right." Dr. King asked to be remembered 'as a drum major for justices...who tried to do God's will.'

I'm convinced in this life the most we can do is try. If you can do what you set out to do, the most remarkable thing remembered will be the fact you tried in the first place."

Aaron Brown
Cronkite Professor of Journalism

“He loved being Cronkite. He loved that everywhere he went people admired his work. But he loved more that he was able to do the work. He loved that he was there, that he helped us through November 1963 and through Vietnam and Watergate and men on the moon and the rocky road to get there. He loved being a reporter. As much as anyone I’ve ever known, he cherished the honor of having the box seat for the great events of our lives, cherished being the one to tell the great stories.”

Dr. Joseph Russomanno
Professor, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication

“If there is one person who is the face of excellence in American journalism, it is Walter Cronkite. His body of work is the gold standard. He was called “the most trusted man in America.” That is the highest compliment a journalist can receive, for without trust, a journalist has nothing. It reminds us how that trust is established – through accuracy, integrity and honesty. To be a part of a school that bears Mr. Cronkite’s name is both an honor and privilege. But with it comes a great responsibility – in short, to make the greatest effort to live up to the standard he established.”

Dr. Donald Godfrey
Professor, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication
“In my professional career I worked primarily in CBS-affiliate stations. As a result, I’d met Walter a time or two and watched his work for decades. I had a great admiration for his work as a pioneer in broadcast journalism. I remember doing the news some evenings, we would sit around the studio wondering where Walter actually stood on issues and about his personal political orientation — we never knew. None of this was ever the fodder or reflected on the CBS Evening News. He gave us the news we needed to know, not his opinion. It was not until I joined the Cronkite School faculty that I learned about him as a person and my admiration grew. He will be missed in the industry. He will be missed at our school.

“Walter has made regular appearances in my classes for the last 10 years. As a result of those experiences, I have grown to appreciate him more than being a CBS news icon. He has a genuine interest in students. Never once did he play the role of the network elitist or a ‘star.’ He related to my students, he talked with them, shared with them. Ever the journalist, he continually questioned them, and I think you could say he was learning from them as well as teaching them. He was always smiling, always willing to help, even cutting promotions for our weekly newscast. He loved our students and they idolized him.”

Carol Schwalbe
Associate Professor, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication
"He has always been such an inspiration to us and to our students. This is an amazing legacy considering that most students have probably never seen him live on television. We’re all proud to say we’re from the Cronkite School.

Walter’s legacy to the field of journalism is incalculable, too. His name is synonymous with trustworthiness, integrity, intelligent reporting and clear, concise writing. He changed war reporting forever.

The image I’ll always remember is Walter breaking ground for the new Cronkite building. He was wearing sunglasses and a yellow hard hat set at a rakish angle like a beret.

The first year I was at the Cronkite School, the annual faculty luncheon with Walter took place in the Reading Room. Since I was new, I had the honor of sitting next to him. What a delightful dining companion! We chatted about the pocketknives, tweezers and other items being confiscated by airport security agents. He thought the items should be sold back to their owners when they returned — a way to replenish the government coffers.

My favorite Walter story is when he was taken to see the new building under construction. A construction worker spied him from high atop of the building and yelled down something like 'We’re building this building for you, Mr. Cronkite.' That shows how much he means to everyone."