April 15, 2024


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She was a whirlwind in blue-tinted glasses, long, curly dark hair and scarlet lipstick. And before
Baker Tower in 1971, I had never met anyone like Catherine A. Panagoulias, ’75. I met her
during freshman move-in, and we lived in the same dorm, the same house and the same
apartment throughout our four years at Cornell.
We also lived at The Sun — then at 109 E. State St. Cathy stood out in our compet class
instantly. You just knew she was going to be a star. She was assigned the marquee beat — the
University Senate. I covered housing and dining, a slightly less prestigious enterprise, but one
which interested students. We often shared the front page.
She rose quickly at The Sun, and by the time we ran against each other for Managing Editor in
1974, it was a rivalry born in late nights and reams of copy together. That closed-door ME
election took hours. We sat outside Kaufman Auditorium in Goldwin Smith Hall, waiting. When
it was clear she had won, I was disappointed, but cheered by the fact that I had been elected
News Editor, which was that year set up to be her number two. We ran the news side of the
paper, two young women atop a masthead of young women: Editor-in-Chief Jennifer Sprague,
Assistant ME Barbara Linder, Features Editor Sharon Kaufman. It was a remarkable
achievement for the 1970s, even if it did inspire tasteless jokes that would not be acceptable
today. We literally lived at The Sun. Cathy and I shared a Collegetown apartment with Sharon
and Barbara. It was home, Sun, home and oh, yeah, school.
There was no one tougher than Cathy. She demonstrated her toughness with The Sun Sports
Department, which was notoriously late with their copy. In an era when we were charged
overtime by the Ithaca Journal’s printing pressroom for every minute we were late, this was not
acceptable to Cathy. She threatened the Sports Editor that if the copy was late again, she would
run white space. On one watershed night, the pressroom called to say the sports copy was late
— again. Cathy gave the go-ahead for the white space. The next day’s paper had two blank
pages, but for the tag: “This space reserved for sports.” The campus sports fans howled in
protest. Sports was never again late with its copy.
Then there was the “Cranch Report” caper. In 1972, the University issued the “Cranch Report
on Long-Range Planning,” which called for, among other things, a tuition hike and a vast
increase in the number of students on campus. Then-Managing Editor Dan Margulis, ‘73
obtained a copy of the report before the University released it. He never said how he got it, but
the scoop was the talk of campus. The next year, a faculty/student committee was to issue a
response. Cathy wrote in “The Cornell Daily Sun’s A Century at Cornell,” a coffee-table book
edited by Margulis and designed by John Schroeder, ’74, that as the University Senate reporter,
she knew which committee members had draft copies of the report and she was determined to

get one, even if by theft. She found out that one of the students who had the report was
studying in Uris Library and went there to watch him. The student didn’t move for hours. Cathy
called for reinforcements, enlisting one Sun staffer who knew him, and an Assistant Managing
Editor. The staffer and the AME came to the library, where the staffer engaged the holder of
the draft in conversation. Later, the AME and the student committee member went into the
restroom, and, while the student was otherwise occupied, the AME lifted the copy of the report
and handed it out the restroom door to the staffer who handed it off to Cathy. Cathy ran to
photocopy it, and then it was returned to the library lost-and-found the next day. The result
was a five-part series “The Response to Cranch” by Margulis that ran in the Sun. Cathy was
proud of the result. But she had qualms. “I think the incident raises ethical questions that they
would cringe about now,” she wrote of the team.
Reading the accolades accorded my old friend since her passing, you get the sense of how she
cared for her colleagues, especially those she recruited to the Wall Street Journal. That caring
was born at The Sun. Back then, we shared duties of writing the “Mustrun,” the ink-on-paper
list of the day’s assignments posted in Goldwin Smith Hall. Cathy chafed at the fact that I did
most of the daily writing to staff. She felt disconnected from her people, so we decided that she
should do the Mustrun more often, just to keep in touch. Some of her Mustruns were prose art
— long sheets of yellow page-markup paper, pasted together, with a personal note, often more
like a paragraph — to each of the more than 50 staff members. The staff usually initialed the
paper to record that they had seen it and would do the assignment. Often, they wrote longer
notes back to Cathy because she inspired them.
An inspiration in blue glasses and sneakers, a mentor to many, a brilliant mind and most of all,
my friend and compatriot in journalism. Rest easy, old pal, The Sun will remember and carry on.

Elaine Povich is a long-time Washington journalist and currently a staff writer for Stateline.org. She can be reached at [email protected].

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