"Hohenberg lets us share, with unassuming but sharp insights, his experiences as reporter, editor, professor, Pulitzer Prize administrator, government emissary, soldier, pianist and generally astute observer. Like its author, Pursuit of Excellence successfully marries journalism history, politics, education, and the quieter but no less important concerns of home and family."--Louis D. Boccardi, president and chief executive officer, Associated Press
"Hohenberg takes the reader behind the scenes of the Pulitzer Prizes which he administered and inside his journalism school classrooms at Columbia and elsewhere. The result is an understanding of excellence in education and why it is so sorely lacking today. A gifted teacher, author, and administrator, Hohenberg helped write 'the book' on quality, which he explains in his account."--Everette E. Dennis, executive director, Freedom Forum Media Studies Center, Columbia University
"A fascinating life story, written with great skill."--Grayson Kirk, president emeritus, Columbia University
Bounding toward his ninth decade with gusto and optimism, legendary journalist and educator John Hohenberg writes that one of his most cherished mementos is the letter he received in 1955 from William Faulkner when Faulkner was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.
Hohenberg lingers lightly on Faulkner's "pursuit of excellence" in fiction, then jumps headlong into the story of his own pursuits--writing, education, diplomacy, music, and marriage--remembering a life that spans the twentieth century and that included a quarter of a century administering and judging the Pulitzer Prizes.
Born in 1906 in a tenement in New York's Lower East Side, Hohenberg spent his youth in Seattle, in a loving home filled with books and music. Childhood memories include his father's low voice reading aloud every evening from the daily newspaper, a green secondhand Oliver typewriter that he taught himself to use at the age of nine, and classmates who distorted his German-sounding name into another German name--Hindenburg--during World War I.
Launching his career at age seventeen by interviewing President Warren Harding, he wrote about Presidents Roosevelt and Truman, twice traveled to Vietnam on book assignments, and was sent on Far East lecture tours in the Eisenhower and Reagan administrations.
After twenty-five years of journalism and public service, Hohenberg began an academic career that has lasted forty years. Beginning at Columbia University in 1950, he has taught some 5,000 students, helping undergraduates edit Associated Press copy during the Cuban missile crisis, setting loose weekly seminars of graduate students at the United Nations, and affecting the influence and stature of education in the profession of journalism.
As administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes, he broadened the honor and prestige of that award by publishing jurors' names and extending the judging machinery across the country, while at the same time subduing political controversies. [Cut from here on down for catalog; save for flaps]
Quoting from his own diary entries, Hohenberg recounts the agitation Drew Pearson created in 1957 when he charged that Profiles in Courage by John F. Kennedy was ghostwritten. (Pearson later published a "typically ungracious retraction" in his syndicated column.)
Hohenberg has been happily married twice (his first wife died in 1977) and continues to write, travel, and play the piano. Reporting that his doctors marvel at his vigor (but giving some credit to a daily swim of a half to a full mile), Hohenberg's home base today has shifted from New York to the South, where he has been a visiting professor in Florida, Tennessee, and elsewhere.
John Hohenberg, who administered the Pulitzer Prizes for twenty-two years, is journalism professor emeritus at Columbia University. He has written fifteen books, including three that won prizes from the Society of Professional Journalists: Foreign Correspondence; The Great Reporters and Their Times, Between Two Worlds, and A Crisis for the American Press. Upon leaving Columbia, he was given a Pulitzer Prize Special Award for his services to American journalism. He lives in Knoxville, Tennessee.