Former ASU journalism professor Ben Silver dies

Ben Silver (left) and Marianne Barrett in 2007

Ben Silver, an award-winning correspondent for CBS News who later taught broadcast journalism at Arizona State University for nearly 20 years, died May 2 from complications of Parkinson’s disease at his home in St. Louis Park, Minn. He was 85.

Silver began teaching in what was then ASU’s Department of Mass Communication and later became the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. He retired in 1990 after 18 years of teaching. After his retirement, Silver and his wife, Linda, funded a scholarship for Cronkite students.

“Ben was an amazingly popular professor,” said Christopher Callahan, dean of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. “Some of our best and brightest alumni today are remembering a person they called their favorite professor and most influential mentor. He had an inspirational impact on many young journalists through his teaching and continued that positive effect on today’s students through his scholarship.”

Journalism professor John Craft, who taught alongside Silver, called him a “great guy and a huge part of the early days of the Department of Mass Communication, teaching everything there was to teach about broadcast reporting.”

Bill Miller, former chairman of the Cronkite School Endowment Board of Trustees and founder of MagicDust TV, added, “Hundreds of former students have lost a teacher who truly shaped their lives. The world has lost a very good man.”

Prior to coming to ASU, Silver was a national correspondent for CBS News, covering some of the major stories of the 1960s, including race riots, school integration and Sen. Edward M. Kennedy’s accident at Chappaquiddick.

As a CBS News reporter, Silver worked with distinguished journalists such as Dan Rather, Mike Wallace and, of course, Cronkite, who was anchor and managing editor of the CBS Evening News. He brought those relationships with him to the Cronkite School.

“Ben could get on the phone and ask people from CBS News to come out and visit with us,” Craft said. “That brought a tremendous amount of credibility.”

Before joining CBS, Silver worked at WCKT-TV in Miami from 1957 to 1966, reporting from the Soviet Union and throughout Latin America. He won a Peabody Award in 1960 for his coverage of Latin America. He also covered Fidel Castro’s takeover of Cuba, the Cuban missile crisis and the early days of the space program.

A New York native, Silver dropped out of high school at age 17 to join the Army in honor of his oldest brother, Morris, who died in the Battle of Normandy. Upon his return, he earned a bachelor’s degree in speech and later a master’s in journalism from the University of Iowa. He began his broadcasting career in Sioux City, Iowa, at KTIV-TV.

He is survived by his wife, six children and 11 grandchildren. Services will be held May 6 at Hodroff-Epstein Memorial Chapel in Minneapolis.