WASHINGTON — The Christian Science Monitor honored veteran Washington columnist and Monitor breakfast host Godfrey Sperling Jr. by establishing a journalism fellowship in his name at the University of Illinois.
Announcing the fellowship, Monitor Editor Paul Van Slambrouck said it would "honor and perpetuate the excellence and dedication to public discourse embodied in Budge's career." The first Sperling Fellow will be named in January 2003.
The fellowship will provide a modest monthly stipend for a graduate student at the College of Communications at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign campus. In addition, the university will waive tuition and fees for the student selected.
"It is a many-sided blessing," said Kim Rotzoll, dean of the College of Communications at the university. Mr. Rotzoll spoke at a lunch in Washington on Friday where the Monitor announced the fellowship which will be known formally as the Godfrey Sperling Jr./Christian Science Monitor Journalism Fellowship at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Mr. Sperling, who has long been known by the boyhood nickname Budge, graduated from the University of Illinois in 1937, met his wife, Betty, there, and won its Alumni Achievement Award in 1987.
Sperling joined the Monitor staff in 1946 at its Boston headquarters. He served as chief of the paper's New York, Chicago, and Washington bureaus. In Washington, he is probably best known as the longtime host of the paper's newsmaker breakfasts. Sperling started the group in 1966 to provide a forum where print journalists and public officials could meet for in-depth discussions of the issues of the day.
The first guest was US senator and presidential hopeful Charles Percy. Since then, more than 3,200 breakfasts have been held. Guests included countless cabinet officers and congressional leaders. Presidents Ford, Carter, Reagan, and Clinton, as well as Vice Presidents Humphrey, Ford, Rockefeller, Quayle, and Gore all have been breakfast guests.
When Sperling handed over hosting duties to Washington bureau chief David Cook in December 2001, the Washington Post described the breakfasts as "one of Washington's premier journalistic forums." Sperling continues to attend the breakfasts and to write a column for the Monitor.
As part of the arrangement between the Monitor and the university, audiotapes of the breakfasts Sperling hosted will be housed at the school. Students selected as Sperling Fellows will assist the university in converting the tapes to a computer audio storage format known as MP3. This will allow students and historians to use the breakfasts as a historical resource. The Monitor will continue to have access to the breakfast audio files.