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Esther Kartiganer, 60 minutes producer, dies at 74

Published: August 24, 2012
Section: News


With a career culminating in her position as senior producer of the CBS news program 60 Minutes, Esther Kartiganer ’59, a Brandeis alumni and trustee, died on Aug. 1 in Aspen, Colo. She was 74.

Kartiganer was engaged in a habitual bike ride to a nearby ski lift where she enjoyed reading when she suffered a heart attack, according to senior vice president of institutional advancement, Nancy Winship.

“She was a woman before her time, as one of the first women to be hired by CBS,” Winship said.

Originally beginning her career as an office assistant for CBS during the presidential primary season of 1964, she advanced to become senior producer of 60 minutes.

“Esther was the conscience of CBS news, the longest running news program on American television. She made sure what appeared on air was accurate, journalistically correct and a true reflection of the reporting done in the field. Esther was respected for her integrity, honesty, and directness,” Trustee Allen Alter ’71, a senior producer at CBS news, wrote in a statement.

He further explained that Kartiganer aided him in securing his first professional job after graduation, demonstrating her generosity and desire to give back.

As a Brandeis graduate, Kartiganer majored in politics and possessed a wide facet of interests, serving as a member of the undefeated women’s basketball team of 1955 to 1956. She remained deeply involved in the Brandeis community post-graduation and was a founding member of the Women’s Studies National Board.

Professor Sue Lanser (ENG) and chair of the program, explained Kartiganer’s commitment to gender studies.

“She had seen both the opportunities that Brandeis gave women through her education – the  support for women’s aspirations that was built into the fabric of Brandeis’s vision from the start – and, conversely, the egregious limitations on women’s opportunities in so many fields including politics and journalism,” Lanser said. Upon Kartiganer’s retirement from CBS news, Lanser stated that the network donated $50,000 to the program and its efforts.

During her time at Brandeis, Kartiganer was also a scholarship recipient, and Lanser explained she “cared deeply about ensuring that all students have full access to professional and educational opportunities,” having suggested the creation of a fund to permit students of all financial situations to pursue unpaid internships. Rapaporte Internships, a program aimed at this proposition, was consequently later founded by WGS board member Renne Rapaporte. In 2007, the Kartiganer prize was created to reward excellence in student journalism and encourage coverage of topics pertaining to women and gender studies.

Beyond her dedication to the Women and Gender Studies Program, Kartiganer served as an alumni representative to the board of trustees during the 1980s and was elected to the Society of Fellows in 1991.

Winship said Kartiganer seized responsibility as an alumni member to give annual donations, stating “She was committed to the academic and liberal arts enterprise. She truly believed when she was a student here, and every year since, that Brandeis was the place for an excellent undergraduate education.”  Having worked alongside Kartiganer, she claims “I knew immediately that she could be a guide and a mentor. She was a fountain of information on everything Brandeisian.”

Kartiganer is survived by her brother Joseph Kartiganer, his wife, and two nieces.

Correction: An earlier version of this article misspelled Allen Alter’s name. The article also stated that Esther Kartiganer was a founding member and co-chair of the Women’s Studies Program. She was a founding member of the Women’s Studies National Board which supports and advises the Women’s Studies Program at Brandeis.