One of Coe's best-known alumni, William L. Shirer '25 was not only one of the foremost World War II journalists, a pioneer radio broadcaster, and author of nearly 20 books, he also actively championed writers' rights and was blacklisted in the 1950s for his liberal views. It was during that time, when he was unable to find an employer courageous enough to hire him, that he wrote the 1,200-page work for which he is best known - "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich"(1960). The book has become a classic source on the history of Nazism.
Working his way across the Atlantic on a cattle boat, Shirer headed for Paris immediately after his Coe graduation, armed with a $100 loan from Coe President Harry Morehouse Gage. For the next 12 years, Shirer wrote for the Chicago Tribune, the International Herald Tribune, and the Universal News Service, covering such events as Lindbergh's solo trans-Atlantic flight and the League of Nations meetings in Geneva. He traveled through India and Afghanistan in 1930 and 1931, and began a long association with Mohandas K. Gandhi, about whom he wrote a book in 1980.
With the legendary Edward R. Murrow, Shirer pioneered CBS radio coverage of events in Europe, beginning in 1937. Their live broadcasts of the sounds, the speeches, and the eye-witness accounts of the war changed American public opinion. Shirer returned to New York in late 1940, smuggling his diaries out of Germany in a stack of old radio scripts.
In 1976, Coe honored Shirer with the Founders' Medal, the highest award given by the college. His many honors include the George Peabody Award, the National Headliner’s Club Award, and the National Book Award.