The News Service
Morley Safer of CBS to receive University’s first Welles Hangen Award
CBS newsman Morley Safer will receive the inaugural Welles Hangen Award from Brown University on Saturday, May 29, 1992, in the Salomon Center for Teaching. The award honors Welles Hangen, a 1949 graduate of Brown, who died in 1970, covering the war in Cambodia.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Morley Safer, co-editor of the CBS news magazine 60 Minutes, will receive the University’s first Welles Hangen Award for Superior Achievement in Journalism on Saturday, May 29, at 3:30 p.m. in the Salomon Center for Teaching, located on the College Green. Safer will receive the award from Vartan Gregorian, Brown’s 16th president, during a presentation titled “60 Minutes with Morley Safer,” part of a day-long program of Commencement forums marking the University’s 225th Commencement.
The award was created this year to honor the memory of Welles Hangen, a journalist and 1949 graduate of Brown, who was captured and executed by Viet Cong and Khmer Rouge guerrillas during the Vietnam war. Hangen, NBC’s Hong Kong bureau chief, was on assignment, covering the invasion of Cambodia.
“The Welles Hangen Award honors distinguished journalists whose service in the enlightenment of a free people has been marked by great courage and dedication,” Gregorian said. “I am delighted that Morley Safer is to be the first recipient of this annual award. Welles Hangen and Morley Safer were contemporaries in Vietnam. They provided hard-won, honest coverage of a controversial war during one of the most divisive eras in American history. Their work, in Jefferson’s phrase, helped the American public ‘exercise their control with a wholesome discretion.’”
Putnam Welles Hangen
Born in New York City on March 22, 1930, Hangen began his college career at the University of Virginia in 1945, transferring to Brown for the start of his sophomore year. He was a gifted student with a passion for international relations and debate. In 1948, he won the Samuel C. Lamport Prize for the best essay on international relations, and two Minnie Helen Hicks Prizes for excellence in debating.
Although Hangen’s student years were filled with excellence and achievement (Phi Beta Kappa, Manning Scholar, Wayland Scholar, Dean’s List every semester), he appears to have been a young man in a hurry. He left Brown at the end of his junior year and went to Paris for the 1948 session of the United Nations. His coverage of that U.N. event for the New York Herald Tribune started him on a career that would take him all over the globe—to Bonn, Athens, Berlin, New Delhi, Cairo, the Belgian Congo, Moscow, Hong Kong, Turkey, Vietnam. He spoke five languages. Along the way, Hangen found time to take courses at the University of Geneva (Switzerland) and Columbia University and transfer the credits to Brown, which awarded his A.B. degree in June 1951, as a member of the Class of 1949.
Hangen began his career with the New York Times in 1950 as a correspondent in the Paris bureau. In 1953, at the age of 23, he established a bureau in Ankara, becoming the Times’ man in Turkey, then moved to Moscow. He resigned from the Times and made the move to television in 1956, taking over the Cairo bureau for NBC. NBC sent him to New Delhi in 1960, to Germany in 1964, finally to Hong Kong as bureau chief.
Hangen was last seen alive on May 31, 1970, when he and his NBC crew were traveling with a crew from CBS about 25 miles south of Phnom Penh. Because territory under control of one armed group could be under control of another group in a matter of days, Hangen had developed the habit of asking frequently about the situation ahead. Three miles after passing its last checkpoint, the group was attacked. An antitank rocket hit the CBS jeep, killing the reporter and crew. Hangen and his crew were surrounded and led away. They were executed three days later.
For the first few years after Hangen disappeared, fellow journalists continued to investigate, and Hangen’s wife, Pat, began writing and speaking about journalists who were missing in Cambodia and Vietnam and continued to press for a resolution. (Hangen and the former Pat Dana had met in Athens in 1953 and were married in the spring of 1958 in Cairo. They had a daughter and a son, aged 1 1/2 and 4 years, when Hangen disappeared.)
War and political upheaval in Cambodia kept searchers away until 1991, when an NBC crew returned. Last year, a team of U.S. Army technicians visited the site and found human remains, which DNA testing confirmed were those of Hangen. In January 1993, twenty-three years after he disappeared, Welles Hangen was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. His papers, notes, scripts, tapes and films are now part of the permanent collection of the Museum of Broadcasting in New York City, given by NBC in 1978.
CBS News Correspondent Morley Safer was one of Hangen’s contemporaries in Vietnam. He joined CBS News in April 1964 as a correspondent in the London bureau and was named London bureau chief in 1967.
Safer served two tours of duty in Vietnam, opening the Saigon bureau for CBS in 1965 and returning as a few years later as London bureau chief. His reporting from Vietnam brought him several major broadcasting honors.
In 1970, Safer left the London bureau and joined 60 Minutes, where he is now in his 23rd season. As a CBS News correspondent, he has also written and reported a number of hour-long documentaries, including “CBS Reports.”
Over the years, Safer’s reporting and interviews have been honored with numerous awards, including nine Emmy Awards, three Overseas Press Club Awards, two George Foster Peabody Awards, an Alfred I., DuPont–Columbia University Award, a George Polk Memorial Award, and the Paul White Award from the Radio Television News Directors Association.
Safer and his wife, the former Jane Fearer, live in New York City. Their daughter, Sarah, will graduate from Brown two days after her father receives the Welles Hangen Award. Ironically, Brown’s Commencement falls on May 31 this year, the date of Hangen’s capture 23 years ago.