It is with great sadness that TFAS mourns the death of Ken Tomlinson, who lost his battle with cancer on May 2, 2014. Tomlinson had a distinguished career in journalism, serving as editor of Reader’s Digest when it was in its prime, chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors and chairman of the Board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. He was also one of Ronald Reagan’s key lieutenants in bringing about the collapse of Soviet communism, having served as the president’s director of the Voice of America (VOA) during the 1980s.
To TFAS, Tomlinson was also a dear friend and an outstanding volunteer leader in many efforts over the years. He served on the TFAS Board of Regents and was an active member of the Board of Visitors for the Institute on Political Journalism. Tomlinson was a judge for both the Mollenhoff Award for Excellence in Investigative Journalism and the Robert Novak Journalism Fellowship program.
TFAS was fortunate to recognize Tomlinson on two occasions for his service and distinguished career. In 2005, he received the Novak Fellowship program’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 2009 TFAS President Roger Ream had the honor of presenting Tomlinson with the David R. Jones Award for Lifetime Service.
It was through TFAS co-founder David R. Jones that Ream first met Tomlinson. “They were cut from same cloth in many ways,” said Ream. “Both came from humble backgrounds and from not too far apart in coal country. Both were passionate about politics and believed in living life to the fullest. And fortunately for TFAS, they both believed they had an obligation to pass along American values to the rising generation. Like David, Ken leaves a deep legacy through the lives he has touched through both TFAS and his other varied endeavors.”
One of the many legacies Tomlinson leaves behind is a scholarship fund in his name. When Tomlinson’s fellow members of the IPJ Board of Visitors learned of his illness, they stepped forward and established the fund in his honor. The scholarship proceeds will help several TFAS students attend IPJ this summer. Sadly, these students will not be able to meet Tomlinson, but they will learn of his legacy through those of us who will keep it alive.
Tomlinson is survived by his wife Rebecca Moore Tomlinson, and their two sons, Will and Lucas. Will is a 1997 alumnus of IPJ, a member of the TFAS alumni council and producer at ESPN. Lucas is a Navy veteran and works at Fox News. TFAS offers its deepest condolences to the Tomlinson family and all those whose lives have been touched by Ken.
Tomlinson’s life and achievements have been celebrated in several publications. You can read a few of these pieces below:
The Washington Times: “SCHULZ: At VOA, Ken Tomlinson ‘helped bring down the Evil Empire’”
The Weekly Standard: Fred Barnes remembers Ken Tomlinson
The American Conservative: Reagan’s Man at VOA: Kenneth Tomlinson, RIP