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Students return to ASU journalism school after death of namesake Cronkite

Katelyn Bolnick was born long after Walter Cronkite left the anchor chair at CBS, but she said Cronkite’s reputation and his relationship with Arizona State University’s journalism school played into her decision to come here.

“It’s a big name. It means hard-hitting reporter,” said Bolnick, a freshman.

As classes resumed Aug. 24, she and others at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication said the school’s namesake, who died July 17 at age 92, would continue to guide them.

“I think all the students here will remember him for who he was and appreciate and definitely carry it on,” Bolnick said.

Brennan Smith, another freshman, said Cronkite’s name and values will still add value to his education.

“The name lends itself to the credibility of the school. So many people trusted him,” he said.

Cronkite gave his name to the school in 1984. In the two-plus decades that followed, he was deeply involved in the school’s development, including regular visits to meet with students.

John Craft, a professor who was at the school when it took Cronkite’s name, said the program’s reputation benefited tremendously from the change.

“Walter Cronkite was the most trusted man in America and somebody and everybody in the world really could relate to and knew, so the name meant something,” Craft said.

Cronkite’s visits to the school included presenting the annual Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism, which since 1984 has honored journalism leaders including CBS founder William Paley, former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw and Ben Bradlee, former executive editor of The Washington Post.

When Cronkite attended the awards ceremony in 2007, he had a chance to see the Cronkite School’s new home as it was under construction in downtown Phoenix.

Cronkite also visited classes, sat for one-on-one interviews with students and spent time with faculty members.

Keepsakes from Cronkite’s office, including his lifetime Emmy, pipes and newspapers, are housed in the school’s Marguerite and Jack Clifford Gallery.

Christopher Callahan, the Cronkite School’s dean, said Cronkite’s legacy and commitment to journalism fundamentals such as accuracy, objectivity and fairness will continue to guide the program.

“We’ll be successful if 20 years from now people say this institution still embodies the most important values that Walter exemplified,” Callahan said.

The Cronkite School operates Cronkite News Service.

The school has scheduled a tribute for Sept. 30, and group of supporters has created the Walter Cronkite Fund for Excellence in Journalism, which, among other things, will support a new annual event celebrating Cronkite’s legacy.

Jacqueline Pantos, a senior who met Cronkite, said she’ll urge incoming students to remember him as one of the most sincere and greatest journalists ever.

“Just as long as those kids go into their field with as much passion as Walter did then I think they’ll be OK,” Pantos said.

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