Penn Kimball, a New Britain native who became one of the most famous professors at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has died at the age of 98.
In Connecticut, Kimball served as a political adviser to Chester Bowles, an Essex Democrat who served as governor from 1949 through 1951. A former Westport resident, he lived for about 15 years on Martha’s Vineyard year-round during his retirement.
But Kimball made his greatest mark at Columbia, where he taught for 27 years at the school on 116th Street and Broadway.
A tough taskmaster, Rhodes Scholar, Princeton graduate, Eagle Scout, U.S. Marine, multi-book author, and cantankerous professor, Kimball liked to take credit for the accomplishments of his students. When the names of well-known students came up, Kimball often said, “I taught him everything he knows.”
Those students included former New York Times executive editor Joseph Lelyveld, columnist and presidential candidate Patrick Buchanan, and high-level editors at places like Newsweek magazine.
Even when he was 96 and in an assisted living facility, Kimball send a note to his students that said, “I still think the best way to really find out what’s happening is to ‘go there’ … and remember not to bury the lead.”
He has also been quoted in a familiar statement as saying, “There’s no such thing as a boring subject. Only boring reporters.”