A West Virginia University journalism professor whose tenacious coverage of the Vietnam War established him as a highly-revered print reporter of the 20th century has passed away at 79.
George Esper, Ogden Newspapers visiting professor at the WVU P.I. Reed School of Journalism, died Thursday night, according to family members. Esper had been living in Massachusetts and was struggling with several health issues.
Funeral arrangements are being made by his family, who plan to hold a memorial service in his hometown – Uniontown, Pa. – sometime next week.
“George Esper was a beloved member of the P.I. Reed School of Journalism faculty for more than 10 years,” said Maryanne Reed, dean of the journalism school. “He shared his vast professional experience with our students, but more importantly, he was their coach and mentor.
“Beyond being a dedicated faculty member, George also was a wonderful person who took a personal interest in the lives of his students, colleagues and friends. He will be greatly missed by his family at WVU and the School of Journalism. They broke the mold when they made George.”
Esper, who earned his bachelor’s degree in physical education from WVU in 1953, returned to the University in the spring semester of 2000 to teach journalism. He was beloved by the entire University community – faculty, staff and students, who took to social media networks today to express their condolences and gratitude for the journalism pioneer.
His journalism career started when he wrote a column for The Daily Athenaeum as a student. During his senior year at WVU, he worked as a sports writer for the Morning Herald newspaper in Uniontown and later as a police reporter for the Pittsburgh Press.
Esper then embarked on an illustrious 42 years with the Associated Press. During his time with the wire service, he covered the Vietnam War for 10 years and the first Gulf War in 1991. He is widely known for his coverage of the Vietnam War. As the AP bureau chief in Saigon in 1973, he refused to leave the evacuated city until he was expelled by the Communist government five weeks after the fall of Saigon. He is also one of a handful of AP reporters to earn the title of AP Special Correspondent.
He also covered the Bermuda riots in 1977, the People’s Temple murder-suicide in Jonestown, Guyana in 1978, the Miami race riots in 1980 and the presidential primaries in 1980 and 1988.
To view a slideshow produced by former WVU journalism students, go to http://slideshows.journalism.wvu.edu/esper/.
CONTACT: University Relations-News
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