The death of legendary CBS news anchor Walter Cronkite on Friday (July 17) hit close to home for students and professors at Arizona State University’s journalism school, which was named in honor of “the most trusted man in America.”
Cronkite died at age 92 at his home in New York with his family by his side after a long illness, said his longtime chief of staff, Marlene Adler. She said the cause of death was cerebral vascular disease.
Cronkite became a staple in American homes from 1962 to 1981, when stories ranged from the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to racial and anti-war riots, Watergate and the Iranian hostage crisis.
ASU’s journalism school was named in his honor in 1984 after the owner of the CBS affiliate in Phoenix contacted Cronkite to help the program.
“He put ASU journalism on the map,” Cronkite school Dean Christopher Callahan said. “One of the things we tell students is if you can meet the values of Walter Cronkite-style journalism – accuracy, objectivity, fairness and thoroughness in your reporting – you’re going to be pretty great.”
Cronkite was very much “Uncle Walter” to students at the school, which he visited at least once a year until recently to present the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism to successful and prominent members of the news media.
After the awards ceremony, students would crowd around Cronkite, who always obliged by signing autographs and shaking their hands.
“You’d see his eyes just light up when he talked to them about journalism past, present and future,” Callahan said of the last time the Cronkite met with students. “He looked at them and said, ‘You people are the most important things in my life,’ and I really believe he felt one of his greatest legacies was not only the Cronkite school, but Cronkite students.”
Callahan said the journalism school will host a celebration of Cronkite’s life in about a month. He invited students in an e-mail to go the school’s downtown Phoenix campus on Friday to watch tribute videos of Cronkite.
Leigh Munsil, who will be the editor of ASU’s student newspaper The State Press in the fall, said she was saddened to hear the news of Cronkite’s death.
“He’s the face of journalism for a lot of people,” said Munsil, a senior. “I got to hear him speak once … It was very inspiring. We look at people like that, and that’s what we all aspire to be.”