University alumnus is honored on U.S. stamp

Eric Serverid was one of five American journalists who were honored on a stamp.

What do Jesus, Malcolm X, Tinker Bell and University alumnus Eric Sevareid have in common?

They all have their own U.S. postage stamps. Sevareid’s name was added to the list Tuesday when the U.S. Postal Service announced a series of five American journalist 42-cent stamps.

Sevareid, who was 79 when he died in 1992, grew up in rural North Dakota before attending the University. He graduated in 1935 with a political science degree.

He started his journalism career at The Minnesota Daily before becoming a radio and television commentator for CBS News, working with news legends Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite.

Before moving to New York to work for CBS, Sevareid was also a foreign correspondent in London and Paris.

Sevareid’s coverage of a murder trial in Paris caught Murrow’s eye and he hired Sevareid as a radio reporter for CBS.

Raymond A. Schroth, S.J., who wrote the biography, “The American Journey of Eric Sevareid,” said he used to listen to Sevareid’s commentary at the end of the 11 o’clock CBS news when he was a student at Fordham University.

“I always kept my radio on right by my ear,” Schroth said. “I would listen to him and I said to myself, ‘When I grow up, I want to write like that.’ “

Sevareid’s commentaries were his personal opinions of national news and political happenings, Schroth said. He was “greatly revered” by his audience.

“He always elevated the level of conversation,” Schroth said. “One of my friends said listening to Eric was like to hear America talking to itself.”

Known as one of “Murrow’s Boys,” Sevareid was one of the first to come out against McCarthyism in the 1950s through his commentaries and television analyses.

His commentaries didn’t start out successfully, however. Sevareid wrote an editorial in The Minnesota Daily in June 1934, just before his senior year, in opposition to the mandatory ROTC program at the University.

Then-University President Lotus Coffman took Sevareid out of the running for Daily editor in chief because of his outspoken piece.

“The worst day in his life was not being made the editor,” Schroth said. “From the day he got there, he wanted to be the editor.”

Kathleen Hansen, a University journalism professor, said it’s ironic for Sevareid to be honored for his career when the University “didn’t treat him very well.”

“But, of course, since then, they’ve claimed him very proudly,” she said, referring to the Eric Sevareid Library in the basement of Murphy Hall.

When the library was dedicated to him in 1980, Sevareid came back to the University, Hansen said.

“He was just lovely,” she said. “It was a thrill to get to meet him. He was quite a guy.”

The other four journalists in the “American Journalists” series include Ruben Salazar, Martha Gellhorn, Jon Hersey, and George Polk.

Senior staff reporter Jake Grovum contributed to this story.