|Ted Gup '68 receives the Waring Prize from Elise Glenn '77, a member of the Waring Prize Committee.|
Ted Gup ’68 has worn many hats since graduating from Western Reserve Academy – author, journalist and teacher – and he added one more during Reunion Weekend.
Gup is the 2012 recipient of the Waring Prize, the school’s highest alumni honor, presented during Saturday’s Celebration of Excellence in the Chapel. He is the fifth writer to receive the award, which is presented to “an alumnus or alumna who, by his or her way of life and achievements, represents the human and individual values the Academy strives to foster, as well as the many graduates known or unknown who have similarly made their contribution to society.”
“I was totally surprised and delighted,” Gup said. “I have followed the award over the years and have known some earlier recipients, like Sandy Frazier, Johnny Apple and Sandy Meldrum. Just to be in company like that is a real honor and appreciated.”
A former member of WRA’s Board of Visitors, Gup is the author of three books, A Secret Gift; Nation of Secrets: The Threat to Democracy and the American Way of Life; and The Book of Honor: Covert Lives And Classified Deaths At The CIA. He is a former investigative reporter for The Washington Post, and also wrote for Time magazine covering Congress, the environment and as an investigative correspondent in Washington, D.C.
“What better example for young people than to see patriotism as the fervor to guard our precious democracy by demanding that it adhere to the ideals of the Constitution through honest criticism, civil debate and praise of those who live up to those ideals,” said Elise Glenn ’77, a member of the Waring Prize Committee, in presenting the award. “As a journalist, Ted fights big battles for such causes as the issues facing coal miners, the environment and endangered animals. He does this by rolling up his sleeves and going to where the action is – sometimes at great personal peril.”
Gup’s passion for challenging authority and the skills needed to be a successful reporter were developed as a student at WRA.
“Collectively, the discipline and strictness of Reserve in the mid-1960s I found to be utterly overbearing, and I reacted to it with a deep distrust of authority and that helped me as an investigative reporter,” Gup said. “The English professors, like Max LaBoarde, Fred Waring and Eleanor Roundy, all had a deep effect on my appreciation for language, words and clarity.
“It was without a doubt one of the most formative experiences in my life. The late and most-missed Dr. Tien Wei Yang had such an impact on me. I was in the Natural History club and he had us work with a lot of snakes, lizards, really hands-on work. That gave me a profound appreciation for nature. Later on, when I was an environmental reporter for Time, my work can be traced back to Tien Wei Yang’s influence in that Natural History club. I was in Frank Longstreth’s fourth-year Latin class as the only student, and I often harken back to my Latin education in my writing, speaking and daily life.
“Much of Reserve’s greatness right now is its diversity. The school is really global in a microcosm, all you have to do is look at the names and the faces of the students and you see the world. When I was there it felt like a small town in Ohio; today it feels like a window to the larger world.”
In addition to his writing, Gup has spent the past 30 years in the classroom. He was the Shirley Wormser Professor of Journalism at Case Western Reserve University for 10 years, and has also taught at Georgetown, Johns Hopkins and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing. For the past three years, he has served as a professor and chair of the journalism department at Emerson College in Boston.
He is currently on sabbatical from Emerson as he will spend the next year as a fellow at the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University. The center focuses on institutional corruption and works to address the fundamental problems of ethics in a way that is beneficial to the government and society. For his project, Gup will spend the year in Washington, D.C., looking at how political partisanship is affecting government oversight.
“I am going to look at if Congress is using its investigative powers to simply discredit the other party, or is it really going after corruption in an objective way,” Gup said. “Once completed, Harvard will publish my findings in a monograph and I am free to place it in the popular press.”
While he is looking forward to his fellowship at Harvard, Gup admits that he doesn’t “like to be away from the classroom for very long,” and his work at Emerson certainly shows why.
During his time as department chair, Gup led the move to eliminate the artificial divides between print, multimedia and broadcast disciplines in the program and integrated them into a seamless multimedia curriculum, reflecting the evolving world of journalism.
“On the whole, there is a lot of innovation and creativity from this generation of students that can bring about change,” Gup said. “Cell phones with cameras can end the days when dictators can get away with abuses for years with no one knowing. I don’t think there is any question that there is not going to be an end to journalism, ever, because if there is an end to journalism there will be an end to democracy.
“But I am worried about what kind of journalism there will be (in the future). I worry that the growth of technology will mean there is not enough in-depth journalism, and that passion and partisanship will replace a need for facts.”
Gup is also looking to write again, something he said he has not done since the death of his oldest son, David, in October.
“I’m toying with the idea of possibly writing a book about fatherhood and my son,” Gup said. “I’ve written a couple of short pieces that I like and they will hopefully find a home. I really enjoy writing; it gives me a sense of value and purpose. I also enjoy the connectedness that you get from your readers – I thrive on those relationships where I hear from people and we converse. One of the great things about the Internet is that it doesn’t take much to hit the send button and it’s great to hear from people.
“I’m looking forward to being able to retire, but I have no desire to actually retire. I’m lucky because I like to write and I like to teach, so why would I want to stop that?”
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