Robert J. “Bud” Korengold, a 1964 Nieman Fellow who served as a foreign correspondent in Europe before transitioning to a career in diplomacy, passed away on March 15 in Vernon, Normandy, France. He was 89.
Born in 1929, Korengold was a native of Minneapolis, Minnesota. He attended the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, graduating in 1951, before serving in the U.S. Navy for four years during the Korean War. Korengold worked for one year in New Orleans as editor of The Word, the magazine of the U.S. 8th Naval District, before moving to Europe in 1955, where he first worked as a roving correspondent for the Army Times. In 1957, he joined United Press, which became United Press International, or UPI, the following year. There, he served as a correspondent in Paris and London, and was a UPI bureau chief in Geneva and Moscow. During his time in Moscow, he met Lee Harvey Oswald, who, years later, assassinated President John F. Kennedy; Oswald had defected to the Soviet Union in 1959, and Korengold tried, unsuccessfully, to interview him at the time. (A female UPI colleague later managed to get Oswald to talk to her.). On the 40th anniversary of JFK’s death, Korengold wrote an account of how, in the hours following the assassination in 1963, he—in the U.S. for his Nieman Fellowship—attempted to alert UPI’s Boston office of Oswald’s Soviet connection.
Following his Nieman year, Korengold returned to Moscow as Newsweek’s bureau chief, and later, from 1968 to 1972, served as the magazine’s London bureau chief. During his time in London, he was president of the Association of American Correspondents. In 1973, he joined the now-defunct U.S. Information Agency (USIA), first serving as the editor for Economic Impact, their publication on economic affairs that was distributed worldwide, and then another government publication, Horizons U.S.A. In 1977, he transitioned to a career in diplomacy, first working as a press officer and then as a counselor for public affairs at U.S. embassies around Europe, including Brussels, Belgrade, London and Paris. In 1985, he served on special assignment as the coordinator for USIA’s press support during President Ronald Reagan’s visit to Europe (including West Germany, the Bonn Economic Summit, and the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France) and, later that year, was the White House’s coordinator of public diplomacy for the meeting between President Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev at the Geneva summit.
Korengold received a host of accolades for his work. In 1986, he received the U.S. Information Agency’s Distinguished Honor Award for his work in Geneva and, in 1988, he received a Presidential Award for Sustained Superior Accomplishment in the field of foreign policy. In 1994, the French government named him a Chevalier (a member) in the Ordre des Palmes académiques, which recognizes distinguished academics and cultural figures, for “services rendered to French culture.” France also named him a Chevalier in its Order of Arts and Letters. He was inducted into Medill’s Hall of Achievement in 2006.
Following his retirement from diplomacy in 1994, he spent four years as the administrator of the Musée d’Art Américain in Giverny, France. He lived in Normandy and for many years wrote about being an expatriate living in France and about French culture for the American website bonjourparis.com.
Korengold is survived by his wife, Christine; his children, Kevin and Emlyn; and his four grandchildren.