Retired Knight Fellowships leader Harry Press dies

I’m sad to report that Harry Press, managing director emeritus of the Professional Journalism Fellowships and the Knight Fellowships Program, died Feb. 6. He was 93.

Harry was managing director of the program from 1967 to 1989. For many fellows — I was one of them — Harry was the first face of the program, when he traveled around the country to interview PJF candidates. He was indefatigable, and his optimism and joie de vivre were legendary. Nobody who ever met Harry forgot him.

Harry’s son, Tony, said the last few weeks were hard on Harry and all of the Press family with the recent death of his daughter Lindi Press. One silver lining was that Harry was able to see many out-of-town relatives who came to Palo Alto for Lindi Press’ memorial service at Stanford on Feb. 2.

“It was pretty cool that they were in town and so they could have really good, cogent visits with him,” Tony said.

Tony said that he was with Harry on Tuesday, the day before he died, and he was “funny and positive, but super tired. It was just time.”

It won’t surprise any of you who knew him that Harry, a consummate newsman, had provided us with an advance obit a couple of years ago. I’m drawing on it for the information about his life that follows.

Early interest in newspapers

Harry was born in Santa Monica, Calif., where his deep interest in newspapers started in the seventh grade. He wrote a one-page newspaper, and his mother typed it with carbon paper. He was on the Santa Monica High School paper, and graduated from Stanford in 1939. He was a staffer on The Stanford Daily all four of his university years, serving as managing editor his senior year. He played clarinet and was manager of the Stanford Band.

After graduation, he worked on the Anaheim Bulletin, the Palo Alto Times, the San Francisco News, and The News-Call Bulletin for 25 years. At The News, he was city editor. Although he described himself as “a hack rewriteman,” in 1956 he was honored with a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard (and isn’t it amazing that a man so identified with journalism fellowships at Stanford spent a year as a Nieman Fellow).

In 1966, he moved to Stanford, where he served as founding editor of the alumni newspaper, The Stanford Observer, (now Stanford Magazine) for its first 20 years; was associate editor of the Stanford News Service; and helped direct the Knight Fellowships until his retirement in 1989.

But in all spare moments, he was a Stanford sports fan, following especially baseball, women’s basketball, women’s volleyball, and football. He went to the College World Series in Omaha with the Stanford baseball team five times. With him constantly was his first wife, Martha, who died in 1999, and his second wife, Mildred Hamilton, whom he married in 2001 and who died in 2010.

Services have not been set. (But in the advance obit that Harry sent us, he announced that they would be held at Stanford’s baseball field, Sunken Diamond.) If you would like to honor Harry’s memory through a donation, information about two funds that support efforts he cared deeply about is here.

He is survived by two children: Tina and Tony, four grandchildren and four great grandchildren.

Memorial planned

A celebration of Harry’s life will be held at Stanford’s Sunken Diamond on Sunday, May 19th, from 2 p.m. to 5. p.m.