Silurians’ Lifetime Achievement Award

Will Go to Steve Kroft of ‘60 Minutes’

Steve Kroft

THE CLOCK MAY HAVE STOPPED ticking for Steve Kroft on “60 Minutes,” but that doesn’t mean we’ve heard the last from the veteran CBS correspondent. Last May, after 30 years and some 500 stories, Kroft retired from the nation’s top television news show, but he’ll be talking exclusively to us in October when he receives the Silurians’ Lifetime Achievement Award at a gala dinner at the National Arts Club. The date is Wednesday, Oct. 16, but make your reservations now (see instructions below) because we expect a big turnout for this one.

When Kroft joined the “60 Minutes” team, he was already a veteran of nine years with CBS News, including reporting from the Caribbean and Latin America and six years as part of the London bureau. He had traveled all over the world covering stories about international terrorism and sectarian violence: hijackings, bombings and the like. He won an Emmy for his coverage of the assassination of Indira Gandhi. In 1986, CBS brought him back to the U.S. and asked him to become a principal correspondent on a new magazine show called “West 57th.” That program was cancelled in 1989, but it seemed to be a natural progression at that point for Kroft to move on to “60 Minutes.” In September 1989, he did just that, becoming the new kid on a block populated by such giants as Mike Wallace, Ed Bradley, Morley Safer and Harry Reasoner. He told Lesley Stahl he felt like “the junior partner in a law firm.” When Kroft retired in May, he had become the longest-tenured correspondent on the program, a position now occupied by Stahl.

“From the moment Steve Kroft arrived at CBS News in 1980, he has been shot out of a cannon and wherever he landed his stories broke news, had depth, and a strong sense of humanity” said Susan Zirinsky, president of CBS News. “From Central America to a tour of duty in London, and back to New York, his destiny was clear — Kroft’s investigative instincts and ability to unravel the most complex stories  made him a perfect fit for the ‘60 Minutes’ team.”

In a lifetime of journalism, Kroft has amassed an impressive array of professional honors. They include: 11 Emmys, 5 Peabodys, 3 Gerald Loeb Awards, 2 Columbia University DuPont Awards, and honorary doctorates at three universities. His three decades at “60 Minutes” were marked by some of the show’s most memorable moments, especially his Jan. 16, 1992 sit-down during the presidential campaign with Bill and Hilary Clinton after the then-Governor of Arkansas had been faced with allegations of infidelity. That chat, which drew an audience of 34 million viewers, aired right after that year’s Super Bowl. It became a defining episode not only in the campaign, but in the public’s perception of Hilary Clinton, then relatively unknown to most people. When she told Kroft, “I’m not sitting here some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette. I’m sitting here because I love him, and I respect him,” people took notice. It was 40 minutes into that same interview when a heavy wall-mounted lighting rig came loose, almost striking the future first lady as it smacked into the back of the couch on which the Clintons were sitting. “It was like an artillery round going off,” said Kroft.

Another memorable “60 Minutes” assignment, this one during the first year of Kroft’s tenure, was when he became the first American to be given extensive access to the contaminated grounds of the Russian nuclear facility at Chernobyl. His reporting, including from places where the radiation levels were 100 times normal, got him another Emmy. His most frequent interview subject was Barack Obama, with whom he talked 16 times.

“I think he knew we were not gonna burn him,” Kroft once said. “That we were gonna ask him tough questions, but we were gonna let him answer them.”

The 73-year-old Kroft, a native of Kokomo, Ind., became a journalist while a member of the U.S. Army serving in Vietnam. He was drafted shortly after his graduation from Syracuse University in 1967, reported on the invasion of Cambodia for the Armed Forces Network and was later reassigned to the military newspaper Stars and Stripes as a correspondent and photographer before his honorable discharge in 1971. He launched his professional career in Syracuse, as a reporter for WSYR-TV, then enrolled in the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, earning his master’s degree in 1975. He moved to Florida and worked for two television stations, including WJXT in Jacksonville, where his reports on local corruption led to several grand jury probes and established his reputation. In 1977, he moved to Miami’s WPLG-TV, where his work was noticed by CBS News, which hired him in 1980. Nine years later, it was on to “60 Minutes” and the clock began ticking.

The date: Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2019
The time: Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres at 6 p.m., dinner at 7:15 p.m.
The place: The National Arts Club, 15 Gramercy Park South

Prices for the three-course dinner and open bar are $115 each for members and $130 for guests. Members are entitled to bring one guest at the member price. No one will be admitted without a reservation, all tickets must be paid for in advance, and all reservations must be made by Oct. 7. Tickets are expected to go quickly, so it’s best to reserve early. Here’s how.

  1. Through Eventbrite. You may purchase tickets by credit card through Eventbrite by clicking on the following link:

Please send an email to dinner chair Aileen Jacobson or to co-chair Scotti Williston, telling either of them how many tickets you are purchasing and listing the names of your guests. And please include any special seating requests. Concerns about hackers keep us from putting Aileen’s or Scotti’s email addresses on the website, but you will find those addresses when you click on the Eventbrite link shown above, as well as in the email invitation sent to all members by president David A. Andelman on Monday, Sept. 23. Their contact information, of course, can also be found in the Membership Directory that was sent to all members in January and again in July.

  1. By Check. Although the cost to you will be essentially the same whether you pay by check or through Eventbrite, and even though using Eventbrite makes life a little easier for our dinner organizers, some members might prefer paying directly by check. Here’s how to do that. Again, please send an email to Aileen Jacobson or to Scotti Williston. Tell either of them how many tickets you wish to purchase, list the names of your guests, and indicate any special seating requests. Send your check, with the names of your guests and any special seating requests, to:

Scotti Williston
143 West 85th Street/Apt. 4
New York, N.Y. 10024

If you have any questions, please contact Aileen or Scotti. We’re looking forward to another gala evening and hope to see you there.

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