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Broadcast legend Dr. Frank Stanton, longtime president of CBS and a former chair of the Kennedy School’s Visiting Committee, is being remembered by the Kennedy School community following his death Dec. 24th in Boston.
“If it wasn’t for Frank Stanton, the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum might have remained just an idea and not a reality,” said Graham Allison, director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and former dean of the Kennedy School. “Frank was the one who obtained the funding for the Forum and deserves credit for bringing this remarkable assembly hall to life for generations of Harvard students, faculty, and members of the public.”
Stanton reflected on his work on behalf of the School in a 2003 interview, saying that “it was great having a ringside seat” while laying the groundwork for the Forum. And he was proud of the end result.
“If you go to one of the events, you’ll find people from all over the campus. They hang from the rafters. It’s fantastic. I don’t think any of us envisioned such a thing, but it has turned out to be,” Stanton said.
An advocate of serious news coverage who once risked jail by refusing a congressional subpoena to turn over unaired footage from a CBS News documentary, Stanton was an ardent backer of the First Amendment. He is also credited with expanding the network’s evening news program from 15 to 30 minutes.
“Frank Stanton's great contribution to television news was that he believed that news of the highest quality should be integral to the medium of television,” said Alex Jones, director of the Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy. “In Frank's heyday, television news aspired to greatness with serious purpose and what he achieved has seldom been matched.”
A professorship in Stanton’s name was established at the Kennedy School in 1990. Frederick Schauer is the incumbent Frank Stanton Professor of the First Amendment.
“One of the most remarkable things about Frank Stanton was the breadth of his intellectual interests, and the way in which he pursued them throughout his long life,” said Schauer. “Whenever I would send him a reprint of an article or a copy of a book I had written, or whenever he would see my name somewhere, he would send me an interesting substantive note, sometimes agreeing, sometimes disagreeing, but always engaged, and always proud of what someone who carried his name had done.”
Stanton’s name also adorns a professorship at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD). Alan Altshuler, former academic dean and former director of the Kennedy School’s Taubman Center for State and Local Government, is the Ruth and Frank Stanton Professor of Urban Policy and Planning at GSD.
Stanton retired from CBS in 1973. In 1978 he became the first non-Harvard graduate to be elected to the university’s Board of Overseers. He was 98 years old.
Photo: Joe Wrinn, Harvard News Office