A recent college graduate whose work has appeared in conservative publications is the inaugural recipient of the Joseph Rago Memorial Fellowship for Excellence in Journalism, named after a Pulitzer Prize-winning young editorial writer.

Elliot Kaufman, who graduated from Stanford University in June, officially received the fellowship Sept. 27 at the Robert Novak Journalism Fellowship Awards Dinner.

The Fund for American Studies, which describes itself as “an educational nonprofit that is changing the world by developing leaders for a free society,” holds the annual dinner to highlight outstanding young journalists.

“It was a very uplifting and welcome break from the kind of pessimistic feeling that a lot of us have about the mainstream media these days,” Roger Ream, president of the nonprofit, told The Daily Signal.

Approximately 215 people attended the dinner at the Metropolitan Club in New York, where several other journalists also were honored with awards and fellowships, Ream said.

From left: Roger Ream, president of The Fund for American Studies; Paul and Nancy Rago, Joseph Rago’s father and mother; Elliot Kaufman, the Rago Fellowship recipient; and Paul Gigot, editorial page editor and vice president of The Wall Street Journal. (Photo: The Fund for American Studies)

The award received by Kaufman was created in honor of Joseph Rago, a writer for The Wall Street Journal and winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in Editorial Writing. He had interviewed such notable figures as Tom Wolfe and William F. Buckley Jr.

Rago died last year at age 34 of a relatively mysterious illness, sarcoidosis.

Ream described the fellowship as a means to “carry on the legacy of Joe Rago.”

His father, Paul Rago, spoke at the awards dinner, as did Paul Gigot, editorial page editor of The Wall Street Journal, who talked about what the younger Rago and his work meant to many people.

Also honored was journalist and satirist P.J. O’Rourke, 70, of The Weekly Standard, who received the Thomas L. Phillips Career Achievement Award.

Six honored journalists previously were named recipients of the Robert Novak Journalism Fellowship: Tim Alberta of Politico Magazine, Christine Emba of The Washington Post, Curt Mills of The National Interest, Kenneth R. Rosen of The New York Times, freelancer Leah Libresco Sargeant, and Kari L. Travis of Carolina Journal.

Named earlier as recipient of the Alumni Fund Fellowship was Joel B. Pollak of Breitbart News.

It was the 25th annual Novak dinner held by the Fund for American Studies, Ream said, and it was the first time the organization had moved the dinner from Washington, D.C., to New York, in deference to Rago’s friends and family who reside there.

Kaufman was picked by senior editors of the Journal and leaders of the nonprofit in consultation with the Rago family.

Fellowship recipients, from left: Joel Pollak, Kari Lynn Travis, Kenneth R. Rosen, Curt Mills, Leah Libresco Sargeant, Christine Emba, and Tim Alberta. (Photo: The Fund for American Studies)

Kaufman, who grew up in Toronto, Canada, and was a managing editor of The Stanford Review, spent time at the Journal as a Bartley fellow. His work was published in outlets such as Commentary, National Review, Washington Examiner, and Claremont Review of Books.

Kaufman will receive a stipend during a nine-month internship with the Journal’s editorial team.

“We’re determined over the course of the next two years to fully endow the fellowship to continue it in perpetuity, to produce journalists in the mold of Joe Rago,” he said.

Kaufman “had his first piece published identifying him as a Rago fellow on the night of the dinner,” Ream said. “It was a piece on the United Nations.”

The journalism fellowships were named after celebrated columnist, commentator, and reporter Robert D. Novak in 2009, the year he died. Each Novak fellow spends a year reporting on a topic of his or her choice relating to the principles of a free society.

“According to the judges who made the selection of the 2018-19 Novak fellows, we had among the best applications ever for the fellowship,” Ream said.

Ream said the fellows’ projects range from “the current state of the Republican Party to human trafficking, from foreign policy in the age of Trump to water rights issues in California.”

“The projects will involve these journalists doing … hard-nosed reporting,” he said.

Awards at the Robert Novak Journalism Fellowship Awards Dinner in New York. (Photo: The Fund for American Studies)

Ream emphasized that the judges who pick the fellows choose individuals whose work resembles that of Novak.

“When you read a Robert Novak column, you always got new information,” Ream told The Daily Signal.

The annual dinner “gives us the chance to showcase these bright young people who are really excited to tackle important projects in journalism,” he said.

This report has been modified to correct some misspellings, Sargeant’s affiliation, and the name of  Pollak’s fellowship.