A writer of wisdom and a man of warmth

1st December 1995 at 00:00
With the death of Fred M Hechinger, at his home on the Upper East Side, Manhattan, New York, the world of educational journalism has lost one of its most distinguished figures, and for those who knew him a great and valued friend. He was 75.

He was one of that large company of European immigrants who fled to America from Hitler's Germany. Born in Nuremberg in 1920, he and his family managed to get out in 1936. In New York he picked up the pieces of his secondary education and by the time war broke out he had worked his way through City College, gaining an arts degree. War service in army intelligence took him to Britain, where he stayed on to study at London University.

His career as a writer on educational topics spanned 40 years, starting as education editor of the New York Herald Tribune in 1950, acting also as The TES's United States correspondent. In 1959 he took over as education editor of the New York Times.

After moving on to become a member of the NYT editorial board and assistant editor of the editorial page in 1970, he continued to write a weekly column on education.

I got to know him in the mid-1960s when he was the undoubted doyen of American education journalism. He knew everybody and had an entree everywhere. He was also wise and balanced, a man on whose judgment others relied. An anglophile who came regularly to London with his wife Grace, also an education writer and broadcaster, he did the rounds of education ministers and caught up with what was going on.

His quiet manner was deceptive - behind it lay the acute intelligence of one who was too experienced to have the wool pulled over his eyes by glib politicians. He was excellent company, a man with wide sympathies and interests.

When he finally retired he spent the last five years of his life as a senior adviser at the Carnegie Corporation of New York working on various social programmes. His accumulated wisdom and his warm personality will be widely missed.

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