Brown University News Bureau

The Brown University News Bureau

1998-1999 index

Distributed April 27, 1999
Contact: Glenn Hare

Welles Hangen Award

Peter Jennings to receive award for superior achievement in journalism

ABC News anchor Peter Jennings will receive the University's Welles Hangen Award for Superior Achievement in Journalism on Tuesday, May 4, in Sayles Hall. Presented for lifetime achievement, the award honors 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.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- ABC News anchor and senior editor Peter Jennings will receive Brown University's 1999 Welles Hangen Award for Superior Achievement in Journalism on Tuesday, May 4, at 11 a.m. in Sayles Hall, located on The College Green.

Created in 1993, the award honors the memory 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 Honk Kong bureau chief, was on assignment covering the invasion of Cambodia.

After receiving the award, Jennings will speak about events and issues he's dealt with during his 35-year career as a journalist. The award ceremony and Jennings' address are open to the public.

Previous recipients of the award include Tom Brokaw, John Chancellor, Morley Safer and Christiane Amanpour.

Peter Jennings

As a correspondent, bureau chief and anchor, Peter Jennings has covered many of the pivotal events which have shaped the last half of this century. He reported on America's civil rights movement and the struggle for equality in South Africa. He was present when the Berlin Wall was constructed and was there when it came down. He was among the first wave of journalists who went to Vietnam; among the first to witness the Polish political movement, Solidarity; and among the first to view the crisis in Bosnia.

Born in Toronto, Jennings was co-anchor of Canada's first national commercial-network newscast before coming to ABC News as a correspondent in 1964. In the early 1970s, he was appointed head of the ABC News Middle East bureau in Beirut. His 1974 profile of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat earned him several accolades, including a Peabody Award. Jennings moved to London in 1975, where he co-anchored ABC's nightly newscast, World News Tonight. He was named senior editor and sole anchor in 1983.

Peter Jennings Reporting, his series of one-hour prime-time specials, has earned numerous awards since it began in 1990, most recently the Overseas Press Club Award for the examination of the United Nations peacekeeping role in Bosnia. The series has dealt with such issues as America's gun control policy, the politics of abortion, federal funding of the arts, rape, drugs and religion.

Interested in broadcasting for the next generation, Jennings has hosted a number of live news specials for children on subjects ranging from growing up in the age of AIDS to prejudice and its effects on our society.

He anchored the first major television series on AIDS for PBS, The AIDS Quarterly, at a time when much of the media was not dealing with the crisis. He also served as the moderator for Capital to Capital, an unprecedented series of live satellite broadcasts between senior Soviet officials and members of Congress.

During the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Jennings presented more than 100 hours of special report programming. His extensive knowledge of Middle Eastern affairs garnered three awards for reporting on the Persian Gulf conflict.

During his career, Jennings has reported from all 50 states and locations around the globe, including Madrid, Cuba, Moscow, Sarajevo and Osaka. He has been honored with many awards, including 12 national Emmy Awards, several Overseas Press Club Awards, the Alfred I. duPont/Columbia University Award and a George Foster Peabody Award. Among his other awards are the Harvard University/Goldsmith Career Award and the Radio and Television News Directors Paul White Award, chosen by the news directors of all three major networks.

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 him 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' 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, finally 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. 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 NBC 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 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 visited the site and 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.