Murrow and the University, 1926-1932

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Working for NSFA, 1930-1931

Murrow's yearbook photograph, 1930Upon Murrow's graduation in spring 1930, NSFA sent its new president to visit its main offices across the nation and to participate at the CIE conference in Europe that summer. His first trip to Europe and the many leading European student activists he met were to be valuable lessons and contacts for the rest of his professional life. Returning to the U.S., Murrow moved to New York City. He began to work for NSFA and earned a $25-per-week stipend, about the average weekly family income during the Depression. According to Murrow, his position involved a "One-room basement office, Madison and 36th, arranging cheap student tours to Europe, visits to America of Oxford and Cambridge debating teams, etc."2 That was an understatement of perhaps British proportion though. Murrow and others are credited for having organized the first ethnically integrated NSFA convention in December 1930, held at the Biltmore Hotel in Atlanta. Given the times and the location, this was quite a coup. It helped that the organizers were able to rely on the collaboration of Adolph Ochs, publisher of the New York Times, representatives of three Black Colleges (Atlanta University, Agnes Scott and Georgia Institute of Technology), and the skills of highly educated, upper-class female NSFA members. The convention passed a unanimous resolution that "racial discrimination would not be permitted to enter the policy of NSFA."3

An unexpected side benefit of being NSFA president was perhaps equally important for Murrow: NSFA offered its new president a first footing in the radio industry and, in fact, with CBS.

NSFA, CBS, and Murrow

1931 NSFA brochure cover
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1930 NSFA brochure cover
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NSFA had early on established a hold in what was a relatively new local and national medium, the radio. In 1928 William S. Paley had bought up a group of small radio stations and renamed it Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS). Only a year later CBS proposed that NSFA organize radio programs and speakers during its less popular afternoon air time. With Fred Willis coordinating programs at CBS, the University of the Air was able to line up leading figures of the day by relying on NSFA national and international student organization contacts.

Edward R. Murrow quickly got into radio. He first hosted a CBS show on September 15, 1930 and soon completely took over NSFA radio programming, arranging and hosting the thirty-minute, semi-monthly broadcasts. These included "remote pickups from London of Mahatma Gandhi and Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald, from Berlin, the aged President Paul von Hindenburg ... In New York, they lined up Albert Einstein and the Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore, both on first-time visits to the United States."4 Broadcasts also included conversations with Ray Lyman Wilbur, Norman Thomas, Corliss Lamont, and Ms Agnes MacPhail. This work experience and his friendship with Fed Willis would land Murrow his first full-time radio job only three years later. But first, Murrow accepted an offer to become assistant secretary of the Institute of International Education in late 1931.

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Edward R. Murrow as Alumnus

Edward R. Murrow remained loyal to his alma mater and the campus radio station throughout his life, donating to the library book fund, or doing the voice-over for a promotional WSC 1950 movie, for instance. He lent his name and encouragement to the Annual Edward R. Murrow Award of National Collegiate College-TV Guild which was awarded by its chapter member station KWSC.

Congratulatory telegram from Edward R. Murrow to the recipient of the 'Annual Edward R. Murrow Award of National Collegiate College-TV Guild,' 1950

He also kept in touch with Sigma Kappa. In 1960, this involved a hilarious retroactive authentication of a document. Because Murrow could neither address the 50th anniversary dinner of Gamma Mu chapter in 1959 personally nor could he be reached to wire a telegram, a fraternity brother set about to compose 'Ed Murrow's message' himself. The message was so well-received that the chapter wanted it framed and hung in the Chapter Room. Now, the 'author' was caught.

He wrote to Edward:

Fake Murrow telegram regarding the 50th anniversary of Gamma Mu, chapter of Kappa Sigma, 1959 Letter to Edward R. Murrow asking to retroactively authenticate the fake telegram, 1960 "Now, dammit, having gone through all this you can't let me down. You and I are the only ones who know it is a fake. On second thought, in spirit, I don't think it is a fake. So, for years on end you and I will just have to play the game on this one."

Kappa Sigma's 'Man of the Year' award presented to Edward R. Murrow in 1941

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2 Outline Script Murrow's Career, December 18, 1953. Information on the NSFA convention in Atlanta, see Sperber (1986), p. 40-43.
3 See NSFA Brochure, 1931.
4 Sperber (1986), p. 36'

Credits

Text and Selection of Illustration Susanne Belovari, PhD, M.S., M.A., Archivist for Reference and Collections, DCA
Digitization Michelle Romero, M.A., Murrow Digitization Project Archivist
Images Ida Lou Anderson '24 leads a line of hungry students at a 1924 campus event. Photo by Myron Huckle '27; Ida Lou Anderson photograph: both Anderson images courtesy of WSU Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Pullman, Washington. All other images: Edward R. Murrow Papers, ca 1913-1985, DCA, Tufts University used with permission of copyright holder, and Joseph E. Persico Papers, DCA.

Partial Bibliography

State College of Washington changed its name to Washington State University in 1959.
For a full bibliography please see the exhibit bibliography section.

Edward R. Murrow Papers, ca 1913-1985, DCA
Including: Outline Script Murrow's Career, December 18, 1953; Those Murrow Boys (script)

Summaries of student life come particularly from Persico (1988) and Sperber (1986); also Kendrick (1969).

Ida Louise Anderson Papers, 1921-1970, Washington State University Libraries Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Pullman, Washington.

Ida Lou Anderson: A Memorial (The State College of Washington: 1941). This book contains a short biographical note about Ms. Anderson and memories by family members and students including Murrow's. Murrow also contributed financially to the printing of the book. The Edward R. Murrow Room contains three copies of this book.

Current Biography, vol.3, February 1942 (Wilson Company: New York), no. 2, p. 37-39.

State College of Washington Year Book, 1926-1930