Distributed April 23, 2002
News Service Contact: Mary Jo Curtis
Welles Hangen Award
NPR’s Sylvia Poggioli to receive journalism honor May 3
Sylvia Poggioli, senior European correspondent for National Public Radio, will receive the Welles Hangen Award for Superior Achievement in Journalism on Friday, May 3, 2002, at 4 p.m. in Sayles Hall on The College Green. Poggioli will speak on “Terrorism, Wars and the Trans-Atlantic Relationship.”
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Award-winning National Public Radio correspondent Sylvia Poggioli will receive Brown University’s Welles Hangen Award for Superior Achievement in Journalism at 4 p.m. Friday, May 3, 2002, in Sayles Hall on The College Green.
Poggioli, senior European correspondent for NPR’s foreign desk, will speak on “Terrorism, Wars and the Trans-Atlantic Relationship.” Both the ceremony and Poggioli’s address are open to the public without charge.
Created in 1993, the award honors the memory of Welles Hangen ‘49, a journalist and NBC Hong Kong Bureau chief who was captured and executed by Viet Cong and Khmer Rouge guerrillas while covering the invasion of Cambodia during the Vietnam War. In receiving the Welles Hangen Award, Poggioli will join the ranks of previous honorees Dan Rather, Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw, John Chancellor, Christiane Amanpour and Morley Safer.
Since joining National Public Radio’s foreign desk in 1982, Sylvia Poggioli’s reports from Rome, the Middle East, the Balkans and other European locations have captivated audiences of NPR’s award-winning newsmagazines Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition. Her on-air analysis has encompassed the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, the turbulent civil war in the former Yugoslavia and noteworthy coverage from Prague. In 1991 she supplemented NPR’s Gulf War coverage, reporting from London on European reactions to events surrounding the war.
Poggioli’s work has earned her numerous awards and honors. In 2000 she received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Brandeis University; in 1994 she won the National Women’s Political Caucus/Radcliffe College Exceptional Merit Media Award and the Silver Angel Excellence in the Media Award. She was also elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1994 “for her distinctive, cultivated and authoritative reports on ‘ethnic cleansing’ in Bosnia.” Her reports on the Bosnian conflict earned her two awards in 1993 as well: the George Foster Peabody Award and the Edward Weintal Journalism Prize. In addition, Poggioli was part of the NPR team that won the 2000 Overseas Press Club Award for coverage of NATO’s 1999 air war against Yugoslavia.
The daughter of Italian anti-fascists forced to flee their homeland under Mussolini’s reign, Poggioli was born in Providence, R.I., and grew up in Cambridge, Mass. (Her father, Renato Poggioli, taught comparative literature at Brown at the time of her birth.) She graduated from Harvard College in 1968, earning a bachelor’s degree in Romance languages and literature. She later studied in Italy on a Fulbright Scholarship, and in 1990 she spent a year at Harvard University as a research fellow at the Center for Press, Politics, and Public Policy of the Kennedy School of Government.
Born in New York City on March 22, 1930, Putnam Welles Hangen began his college career at the University of Virginia in 1945 and transferred 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 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. 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 him his A.B. degree in June 1951, as a member of the Class of 1949.
Hangen, who spoke five languages, 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’ reporter 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. The network sent him to New Delhi in 1960, to Germany in 1964, then to Hong Kong as bureau chief.
Hangen was last seen alive on May 30, 1970, when he and his NBC crew were traveling with a crew from CBS about 25 miles south of Phnom Penh. The group was attacked just beyond a friendly checkpoint, when an antitank rocket hit the CBS jeep, killing the reporter and crew. Hangen and his NBC crew were surrounded and led away; they were executed three days later.
In the years following Hangen’s disappearance, fellow journalists continued to investigate; his wife 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 he disappeared.)
War and political upheaval in Cambodia kept searchers away until 1991, when an NBC crew returned. In 1992, a team of U.S. Army technicians found human remains, which DNA testing confirmed were those of Hangen. In January 1993, 23 years after he disappeared, 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.