Corbin Gwaltney, Co-Founder of Chronicle of Higher Education, Dies at 97

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Corbin Gwaltney, a pioneer in education journalism whose Chronicle of Higher Education served as the inspiration for the creation of Education Week to cover K-12 schooling, has died at age 97.

Gwaltney, who also created the Chronicle of Philanthropy and remained active in overseeing both Chronicle publications well into his 90s, died July 29 at his home in Potomac, Md., the Chronicle of Higher Education said, though no cause of death was given.

Gwaltney was the editor of the alumni magazine of Johns Hopkins University in the 1950s, earning a reputation for using crisp photography and lively articles to go beyond the typical alumni news and notes. Time magazine would praise Gwaltney for creating “a model of lively thought.”

In 1958, Gwaltney and a core group of alumni magazine editors from around the country launched the “Moonshooter Report,” an annual supplement to those magazines that was designed to provide a national perspective about higher education.

He left Johns Hopkins in 1961 to become the head of the nonprofit Editorial Projects for Education, which later became Editorial Projects in Education. He was succeeded as the editor of Johns Hopkins Magazine by Ronald A. Wolk, his assistant editor, who became the informal board chairman of EPE in those early years.

In 1962, Wolk took a leave from Johns Hopkins, and with a $25,000 grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, visited higher education leaders around the country for eight months about the issues they faced and the information they had. The project led to a publication called The 15 Minute Report, which would lead by 1966 to the debut of the Chronicle of Higher Education, co-founded by John A. Crowl and with Gwaltney at the helm.

Wolk, who died last year, eventually went on to co-found Education Week.

The Chronicle began to thrive, and by the 1970s was taking in strong revenue from job recruitment advertisements, buoyed by federal affirmative-action requirements. Gwaltney and Crowl purchased the Chronicle from EPE in 1978 and established it as a for-profit concern, and a profitable one at that. Gwaltney created a sister publication, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, in 1988.

‘Fiercely Independent’

Gwaltney was born in Baltimore in 1922, graduated from Johns Hopkins in 1943, and joined the Army and was taken prisoner of war by the Germans at the Battle of the Bulge.

He had wanted to be a newspaperman since age 12, the Chronicle said.

Gwaltney was described by the Chronicle this week as “fiercely independent and at times mercurial.”

“In earlier years Gwaltney was sometimes quick to anger,” the Chronicle said in its obituary. “In later years, the temper mellowed, leaving a resolute passion for what Gwaltney called The Chronicle: ‘The inanimate love of my life.’”

Earlier this year, Gwaltney was interviewed by Bethany Rogers for an EPE oral history project. Rogers asked him whether he had any mentors or other inspiration “that helped develop your ideas about what the Chronicle could be, or the skills that you needed to make it happen.”

“I don’t think there were any mentors,” Gwaltney told her. “My mentors were people I had never met and never would, like the editor of The New York Times. Lots of inspiration from other places, but not intimate.”

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