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Christian Union: The Magazine
December 13, 2019

Late Journalist Remembered for His “Gracious Spirit”

By Catherine Elvy, Staff Writer


One of the nation’s leading newspapers recently shared the remarkable story of the Harvard-educated journalist behind one of its prestigious awards.


The New York Times highlighted the memory of Nathaniel Nash and the paper’s efforts to create an award in his honor for a business journalist who exemplifies professional excellence and exceptional character. The publication also designated a Nathaniel C. Nash room to pay tribute to the reporter who died in 1996 while traveling with U.S. Secretary of Commerce Ronald Brown and his delegation of business leaders and government officials.


In July, Times Insider explained how the newspaper bestows the Nash award “for coverage of business and economic news distinguished by its intelligence, curiosity, and clarity.” Above the plaque of 20-plus recipients is one commemorating Nash as “a journalist of spacious heart and gracious spirit who epitomized the correspondent’s craft.”

Interestingly, the influence of a legendary reporter at the Times compelled Nash to join the newspaper in the early 1970s as a fresh Harvard grad. While in college, Nash increasingly traveled to Manhattan to attend a Bible study led by John McCandlish Phillips, Jr., a spiritual and professional mentor. Both men stood out for their commitment to Christianity and zeal for print journalism.

In April 1996, Nash was part of the Times’ Frankfurt bureau when he sought an assignment to cover Brown’s trade mission to a war-torn region of Croatia. Tragically, the New England native was among 35 passengers and crew on U.S. Air Force CT-43 when it crashed into a mountainside in the former Yugoslavia. Nash became the first Times journalist since World War II to die while covering a story.


In consultation with Nash’s family, the Times established an award to honor the 44-year-old father of three. Fittingly, a series of media accounts captured a sense of Nash’s deep spiritual core, including his devotion to missionary work.

During the funeral in Massachusetts, Phillips delivered a powerful eulogy before mourners  that included Times publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger, Jr. The former newspaperman’s artfully crafted words later became part of the tribute inside the paper’s headquarters.

Nash’s family wanted his colleagues to know how faithful the business correspondent was to Phillips’ Pentecostal congregation, which he joined as a Harvard freshman.

Phillips founded the New Testament Missionary Fellowship in 1962 with an emphasis on foreign missions, evangelism, and campus ministry to neighboring Columbia University.

Notably, Nash was the fourth generation in his family to attend Harvard, where he curtailed some of his athletic endeavors after his freshman year. That came, in part, because of his growing involvement with the New Testament Missionary Fellowship, according to news reports. Later, Phillips, a celebrated reporter, helped recruit Nash to the Times as a copy boy. During the 1970s and early 1980s, Nash actively participated in New Testament Missionary Fellowship, where he also played guitar. Each spring and fall, Nash joined congregants in sharing the Gospel on Columbia’s campus in Morningside Heights.


In 1973, Nash joined the Times as a newly minted Harvard graduate who majored in languages and sensed a calling to journalism. After starting in clerical jobs, Nash worked as a copy editor, Washington, D.C. reporter, and correspondent in Latin America and Europe. As bureau chief in Frankfurt, Nash specialized in business news in Europe.

In 1985, Nash wed Elizabeth Rogow at St. Paul’s Chapel on Columbia’s campus with an officiant from New Testament Missionary Fellowship. Both shared an interest in missionary service.

As for the legendary Phillips, he gave up journalism in 1973 at the pinnacle of his career to focus on preaching. He went on to publish several books, including What Every Christian Should Know about the Supernatural.

 In 2013, Phillips died at age 85. The journalism community remembered him for penning one of the most famous articles in the Times’ celebrated history. Namely, he exposed the Orthodox Jewish background of a senior Ku Klux Klan official.

The devout Christian kept a Bible on his desk and led prayer meetings for a cluster of colleagues in a conference room. Notably, he refrained from the rampant vices of the newsroom, including cursing, smoking, drinking, and gambling.

Among other tributes, The King’s College in Manhattan operates the McCandlish Phillips Journalism Institute to provide training and development for journalists at the high school, undergraduate, and professional levels.

As for Nash, the gentle soul touched the lives of his Times’ colleagues, including columnist Thomas L. Friedman. “Nathaniel could always remind his fellow journalists how lucky they were to have the front-row seat to history that comes with being a foreign correspondent,” Friedman wrote in a tribute. “He always conveyed a sense that being a foreign correspondent was a privilege to be cherished.”