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Stanford Report, February 27, 2002

Daniel Pearl remembered as a bright student, a bridge builder and a gentle, compassionate friend


Slain journalist Daniel Pearl was remembered Monday by friends, colleagues and teachers as a cherished member of the Stanford family who tried to build bridges through his reporting.

"The death of Daniel Pearl was an attack on freedom, on tolerance and on pursuing the truth," President John Hennessy said at an emotional service at Memorial Church that attracted about 500 mourners from the campus community and beyond. "Although we are deeply saddened by his death, I can think of no better way to honor him than to live our lives in a way that would make him proud of his alma mater."

Rabbi Patricia Karlin-Neumann, associate dean for Religious Life, recited the Kaddish at the end of the Memorial Service held on Monday for Stanford Alumnus Daniel Pearl. Photo: L.A. Cicero

Hennessy announced that an anonymous alumnus has established an endowed fund in Pearl's name. The fund, which will benefit undergraduates in the Department of Communication, has been established with an initial gift of $50,000 from the alumnus.

Pearl, who graduated in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in communication, was kidnapped Jan. 23 in Karachi, Pakistan, while researching a story on Islamic militants for the Wall Street Journal. On Jan. 25, "The National Movement for the Restoration of Pakistani Sovereignty" sent an e-mail to several news organizations claiming that it had captured Pearl because he was a CIA officer posing as a journalist. The e-mail made several demands for Pearl's release, including the return of Pakistani prisoners being held by the United States in Guantánamo, Cuba.

An e-mail sent Jan. 30, the last known message from his captors, reiterated the demands and threatened to kill Pearl in 24 hours if the demands were not met. Last Thursday, the U.S. State Department announced it had received videotaped evidence showing that Pearl had been stabbed and decapitated, possibly on or around Jan. 31. His body has not been found.

At Monday's service, Rabbi Patricia Karlin-Neumann said that Pearl was abducted and murdered because he was an American, a journalist and a Jew.

"The Talmud says that one who saves a life, it is as though he saves an entire world. And one who destroys a life, it is as though he destroys an entire world," she said. "A world was destroyed by the horrifying acts of his murderers." But Karlin-Neumann also said the horror of Pearl's murder must not overshadow the grandeur of his life. Danny was a pearl, a jewel, with special luster, beauty and brilliance, she said.

Communication Professor Emerita Marion Lewenstein, one of Pearl's former teachers, remembered him as gentle, compassionate and humorous, with an eye for the unconventional. Even in a group of high-achieving students, she said, Pearl stood out. Referring to a statement Pearl wrote in his freshman year, Lewenstein said, "He liked to explore untraditional areas and avoid well-worn paths."

Pearl was the Wall Street Journal's South Asia bureau chief. A 12-year veteran of the newspaper, he worked in Atlanta, Washington, London and Paris before moving to Bombay, India, two years ago. His widow, Mariane, is expecting their first child.

In a Feb. 22 story on the murder, the newspaper wrote that Pearl had spent much of the last six years of his career reporting on the Middle East. "Paradoxically, though he appears to have suffered at the hands of Islamic militants angry at the West, he was particularly sensitive to sentiments in the Islamic world and committed to explaining them to his readers in the West," the paper wrote.

Knight Fellow James Areddy, a reporter for Dow Jones Newswires in Hong Kong, said the militants in Pakistan treated Pearl like an enemy when he was actually an unrecognized ally. "What disgusts me is that the ones who killed Danny Pearl essentially cut out their own tongues, unplugged their own amplifier," he said. "They killed the very person who could give them a voice. Instead of allowing Danny to humanize them, they have villainized themselves."

Friends from Pearl's years at Stanford remembered a gentle man who loved music, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. and soccer. Ty Kim, managing editor of KPIX Channel 5 News and a 1986 graduate, said he and Pearl shared a love of music. "Danny was a magnificent violin player," he said, finding a connection between Pearl's music and writing. "The music that came from him, the words that flowed from him ... it makes perfect sense: the precision, intensity, the soulfulness, the gentleness, the compassion from within."

Classmate Karen Edwards said Pearl had a generous spirit. "The doors to Danny's home were just like the doors to his heart, open to all people," she said. Edwards recalled how Pearl didn't know what he would do after graduating from Stanford. After completing a newspaper internship, she said, he tried being a ski bum, working at a convenience store to support himself. In a letter sent to Edwards at the time, Pearl wrote that his job was so boring that it numbed him into his clearest thinking.

"I truly like to believe that during the countless hours that he was being held by his kidnappers that this also numbed him into thinking clearly, brilliantly, and that he achieved a state of grace true to his spirit," she said. "When I think of Danny's family, it makes me want to be a better mother. When I think of Danny's life, it makes me want to be a better person. When I think of Danny's death, it makes me want to work for peace."

The Daniel Pearl Memorial Fund has been established as an endowed undergraduate scholarship fund with preference for students majoring in communication. Donations earmarked for the fund may be sent to Memorial Gifts, 326 Galvez St., Stanford, CA 94305-6105.

Daniel Pearl in the 1985 Stanford Quad yearbook




Communication Professor Emerita Marion Lewenstein spoke of Pearl as gentle, compassionate and humorous. Photo: L.A. Cicero