Mercer Alumnus John Couric, Father of Broadcaster Katie Couric, Dies at 90

June 23, 2011

Media Contact: Mark Vanderhoek, (478) 301-4037 or vanderhoek_m@mercer.edu

Distinguished Mercer University alumnus John M. Couric died Wednesday at Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, Va. Couric, father of broadcast journalist Katie Couric, graduated from Mercer in 1941 with a journalism degree and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree in 1996. Katie Couric delivered the commencement address at that ceremony.
Mercer alumnus John M. Couric (left), shown here with former Mercer President Dr. R. Kirby Godsey, passed away June 22.
Mercer alumnus John M. Couric (left), shown here with former Mercer President Dr. R. Kirby Godsey, passed away June 22.


During the commencement address in 1996, Katie Couric talked about the influence of her father on her life.

“I am in awe of my father’s generation. And I am in awe of my father. He is a man of intelligence, compassion, gentility, humor, integrity and honor. Some parents tell their children to do as I say, not as I do. My sisters, my brother and I did as he said, but we also became the people we are by watching him every day,” she said. “Recently, when my dad was getting a prescription filled, the pharmacist called out his name and asked, ‘Are you Katie Couric’s father?’ ‘No,’ he said, ‘she’s my daughter.’ I am indeed…and for that I am lucky, grateful and proud. Thirty-six years from now, if my daughters can say the same thing, that will be the true measure of my success.”

Born on Aug. 28, 1920, in Brunswick and raised in Dublin, Couric covered Georgia politics and the state capitol for the Atlanta Constitution before joining the United Press wire service in the late 1940s. He reported from throughout the South for UP, chronicling the rise of then-Gov. Herman Talmadge of Georgia and a hurricane that in 1949 devastated the east coast of Florida.

He joined the news service’s Washington bureau in 1951 and subsequently wrote about then-Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson’s heart attack, among other stories of national interest.

He was an editor with UP before leaving in 1957 to begin his public relations work with several trade associations, including the National Association of Broadcasters and the American Health Care Association. Couric retired in 1985 following six years with the Food and Drug Administration.

After graduation from Mercer in 1941, he was a newspaper reporter in Macon before serving in the Navy during World War II. He was stationed in the Mediterranean and then the Pacific and participated in the invasion of Sicily before serving in the campaigns for Tarawa, Peleliu, the Philippines and Okinawa. He retired from the Navy Reserve in 1965 at the rank of lieutenant commander.

Besides his daughter Katie, of New York, survivors include his wife of 67 years, Elinor Hene Couric of Arlington, Va.; two other children, Clara Batchelor of Brookline, Mass., and John M. Couric Jr. of Arlington, Va.; nine grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. Their oldest child, Virginia State Sen. Emily Couric (D-Charlottesville), died in 2001.

Couric received a master’s degree in communications from American University in 1968 and was an adjunct professor of journalism and public relations in AU’s graduate program and the University of Maryland for the next 27 years.

He was a longtime Arlington, Va., resident and member of the National Presbyterian Church in Washington. He was involved in volunteer work for the American Heart Association and, in the early 1960s, the President’s Committee on Employment of the Handicapped. He served on the executive committee of both groups.

The family has requested memorial gifts made to Mercer University be sent in care of the Advancement Office, 1400 Coleman Ave., Macon, Ga. 31207 or online at http://www.mercer.edu/couricfund/. Gifts can be made by phone by calling (478) 301-2715.

Based on reports in the Washington Post.
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  • Macon Emergency Hotline Number: (478) 301-5335