December 16, 2018

OPC Foundation Scholarship Luncheon

by Jane Reilly

David Rohde, foreign affairs columnist for Reuters and two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize, will be the keynote speaker at the annual OPC Foundation Scholarship Luncheon on Friday, February 22 at the Yale Club. At the event, the Foundation will award a combination of scholarships and funded internships to 14 graduate and undergraduate college students aspiring to become foreign correspondents.

The scholarship recipients who emerged from an incredibly competitive field of more than 160 applications from 70 colleges and universities are from American University in Cairo, Cambridge University (England), Columbia University, CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, Dartmouth College, New York University, Temple University, University of California-Berkeley and the University of Minnesota.

The OPC Foundation scholarship program has grown dramatically in the past two decades and is now considered the most prominent scholarship program in the country for aspiring correspondents. This year’s applicants came from a wide range of academic institutions and from every region of the country, demonstrating the program’s broad appeal. William J. Holstein, OPC Foundation president, noted, “No one else is doing what we are doing.”

The OPC Foundation awards are given in the names of eminent journalists and media organizations. New this year will be the awarding of the first Nathan S. Bienstock Memorial Scholarship, endowed by the Richard Leibner and Carole Cooper Family Foundation. Bienstock was the founder of the N.S. Bienstock Inc. Talent Agency which has been recognized as the leading agency in electronic journalism. Leibner is an OPC member.

Besides addressing a distinguished audience of more than 200 luncheon guests, the scholarship winners go to Reuters Times Square headquarters for the traditional reception with current and past winners the night before the luncheon. A breakfast will be hosted by Holstein and after lunch, the group tours the Associated Press headquarters and meets with veteran journalists. For many, says Holstein, the opportunity to meet and observe prominent journalists is as valuable as any monetary award.

Media organizations have continued to cut back their international operations and, to the extent they do cover global stories, their coverage tends to be sporadic. Holstein readily acknowledges there is little the Foundation can do to reverse that trend, but adds, “What we can do, and what we have been doing with great success, is identify bright students who wish to become foreign correspondents, support their efforts, and help them launch careers in international journalism.” In providing them a network of support, he says, “We are upholding the notion that it is a noble calling to take the first rough cut at history by being present to witness the often tumultuous changes occurring in the world and then explaining those events.”

It is precisely to help these students launch overseas careers that the Foundation began and has now expanded its internship program. Begun in 2006 with one AP intern, the program in 2012 funded eight scholars, who are chosen from among the scholarship winners, for internships at AP bureaus in Bangkok, Jerusalem, Johannesburg and Moscow, and to Reuters bureaus in Beijing, Shanghai and Kuala Lumpur. The Foundation also sent its first Forbes intern to the Forbes Asia bureau in Mumbai, India. The Foundation picks up the cost of the airfare and one month’s living expenses for the winners. Interns usually use their own funds to extend their stays.

Holstein is especially pleased that someone of Rohde’s stature in the industry is addressing this year’s winners. Rohde won his first Pulitzer Prize in 1996 and the OPC Hal Boyle Award for a series of stories in The Christian Science Monitor that helped uncover the massacre of 8,000 Muslims in the town of Srebrenica in Bosnia. He won his second Pulitzer in 2009 as part of an eight-reporter team from The New York Times for their coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan. While in Afghanistan in November 2008, he was kidnapped by members of the Taliban and spent seven months in captivity before managing to escape in June 2009. A Rope and a Prayer: A Kidnapping from Two Sides, the book he co-wrote with his wife Kristen Mulvihill in 2010.

Rohde began his career at ABC News in 1990 and then headed overseas as a freelance reporter based in the Baltic republics, Cuba and Syria. He served as a county and municipal reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer from July 1993 to June 1994 before joining The Christian Science Monitor. He initially covered national news, before becoming the newspaper’s Eastern European correspondent. He joined The New York Times in April 1996 and worked for them through mid-2011 when he joined Reuters. He reported from Afghanistan for the first three months of the U.S.-led war against the Taliban and served as co-chief of the Times‘s South Asia bureau from 2002 to 2005. He is also the author of Endgame: The Betrayal and Fall of Srebrenica, Europe’s Worst Massacre Since World War II (1997) and Beyond War: Reimagining American Influence in a New Middle East, which will be published in April.

Holstein is grateful to Bloomberg for hosting the judging and to the panel of judges who chose the 2013 recipients: Jacqueline Albert-Simon, Politique Internationale; John Daniszewski, AP; Bob Dowling; Eddie Evans, Reuters; Allan Dodds Frank; Jonathan Gage, Boston Consulting Group; Sharon Gamsin; Sally Jacobsen, AP; Felice Levin; Jeremy Main; Larry Martz; Rosalind Massow; Kate McLeod; Steve Swanson, The New York Botanical Garden; and Karen Toulon, Bloomberg.

Luncheon tickets are $75 for OPC members and $125 for non-members. The Foundation encourages media and corporate support at its three levels of giving: Benefactors, $9,000; Patrons, $6,000; and Friends, $3,000. Tables seat 10. The reception is at 11:30 a.m.; the luncheon ends promptly at 2 p.m. All proceeds benefit the OPC Foundation. For more information, contact Jane Reilly at 201-493-9087 or e-mail and select “Foundation” in the drop-down menu.