I had the distinct honor last month to participate in the dedication of the Walter Cronkite Plaza by the University’s College of Communications. My good friend Rod Hart, dean of the college and holder of the Walter Cronkite Regents Chair in Communication, invited me to be the keynote speaker for the dedication ceremony. It was a memorable event, attended by members of the Cronkite family, including his son Chip and daughter Kathy.
My relationship with Walter spanned only the last twenty years of his long life, but I was fortunate that our relationship was not only close professionally, but also personally. As his oral historian, researcher, friend, and curator of his papers, which are archived at the Briscoe Center, I had the unique opportunity to assist Walter in producing his memoir A Reporter’s Life and, over the years of our friendship, to engage him in candid discussions about his views on journalism. Throughout the years of our friendship, whenever I visited Walter, he always wanted the latest news about the University of Texas and, most especially, what the students were up to and how The Daily Texan was doing. I know that he would be much pleased to have such a prominent space named in his honor.
We celebrated Walter’s legacy not only by the naming of the plaza, but also by the placement of four plaques representing the cardinal virtues of journalism that he exemplified throughout his professional career: Accuracy, Courage, Independence, and Integrity. As a historian, I want to point out that these four journalistic virtues are the same virtues to which those of us who write history also try to follow. Indeed, they are the virtues of all humanists. And that is ultimately what Walter Cronkite really was: a dedicated journalist who also was a true humanist in his personal as well as his professional life.
The evening also featured the unveiling of a new art installation by multimedia innovator Ben Rubin, which included content from the Cronkite Papers. It’s a spectacular new addition to the University’s Landmarks program, and I encourage you to see it in person.
The Briscoe Center’s April ended on a high note with the opening of our Dominick Dunne exhibit An Extraordinary Life. I invite you to visit our Sid Richardson Hall location on the Austin campus to learn more about the life and career of Dunne. The exhibit is a great example of how our collections can serve as a starting point for any number of projects, programs, and events. With our Campaign to Make History, our fundraising effort to completely renovate our public space in Sid Richardson Hall, we’ve begun the important work of creating a modern, welcoming, and highly visible setting to showcase our collections and bring history to life. Please visit the campaign page to learn more.
Don E. Carleton, Ph.D.
J. R. Parten Chair in the Archives of American History