The University Record, April 10, 2000

Endowment gift funds fellowship

By Jane R. Elgass

LaVerne Prager (center) with her children Debra and Kevin. Her $500,000 endowment gift has been matched by the Knight Foundation to fund the Karsten Prager Fellowship in International Journalism in the Michigan Journalism Fellows Program. The fellowship honors her late husband, who was an international journalist with Time magazine. Photo by Bob Kalmbach
Wallace House, home of the Michigan Journalism Fellows Program, was the scene of a celebratory seminar and dinner April 3, marking the acceptance of an endowment that will support an international journalism fellowship.

The Karsten Prager Fellowship in International Journalism is funded by a $500,000 endowment gift from Prager’s widow, LaVerne, that has been matched by a $500,000 gift from the Knight Foundation.

LaVerne Prager, who was joined by her children, Debra Prager of Cambridge, Mass., and Kevin Prager of Brussels, Belgium, noted that the fellowship provides “a way of keeping Karsten here. He loved journalism, he loved Michigan, and ultimately he wanted to teach in a university setting. This fellowship will make it possible to address what he was concerned about—a lack of international journalists—at a place he loved, something he probably would have done had he lived,” added Prager, who works at the Department of Public Information at the United Nations.

“We are honored and moved by this gift,” said Journalism Fellows Program Director Charles Eisendrath. “It comes from one of our own, and will be central to the development of our international program.”

Karsten Prager, who fled East Prussia on foot with his mother and younger siblings after World War II, earned degrees in political science and journalism at the U-M, where he met and married LaVerne.

They moved to Thailand in 1960 where he reported for the Bangkok World until joining the AP in Singapore in 1962. He later was named AP’s Bangkok bureau chief. He joined Time magazine as a stringer in 1964 and then joined the magazine’s Saigon bureau as a staff correspondent.

Following stints in Hong Kong and New York, Karsten became San Francisco bureau chief, was in Beirut during the Arab-Israeli and Lebanese conflicts and in Madrid as Spain moved from fascism to democracy. He returned to the United States in 1978 as a New York-based senior editor and was named international editor in 1980. He was named managing editor of Time International in 1991 and editor-at-large in 1995, retiring in 1997. He died in March 1998.

The Michigan Journalism Fellows Program supports sabbatical studies at the U-M by mid-career journalists. While on leave from their regular duties, the journalists receive stipends of $35,000, supported by gifts from foundations, news organizations and individuals committed to improving the quality of information reaching the public. Eighteen American and international journalists from five continents are on campus this year.