Distinguished Young Alumni Award
Draggan Paul Mihailovich ’83
His adviser in the journalism school took note of his talent and also his humility. He was a Chapel Hill boy, the son of a prominent professor, and yet, as Carol Reuss came to know, “He never had the bravado or the know-it-all attitude that could come from such an upbringing. He was open, cautious, sometimes a bit wary of his own ability, and yet he had a great deal of talent. I think his quietness helped make him a good interviewer and a good researcher.”
Draggan Mihailovich also was fluent in Serbo-Croatian, and Reuss had a graduation tip for him: ABC Television was looking for somebody who could bring some drive, some compassion and those language skills to the winter Olympics in Sarajevo.
You might say he became a five-time medalist. From research assistant in that first Olympics, Draggan rose to chief researcher at Calgary. From there he shifted to CBS, where he was chief researcher for the 1992 games in Albertville, then senior features producer at Lillehammer, little more than a decade after his graduation. At Nagano, in 1998, he was responsible for all the CBS feature stories—120 of them.
The television world couldn’t help but notice. Draggan won two Emmys in 1994, for Best Feature and Sports Journalism, and another in 1995 for Edited Sports Special. He personally produced 16 of the Nagano features and won an Emmy for Outstanding Program Achievement for a story about a former Olympic runner, a World War II veteran who had been imprisoned by the Japanese during the war in a town near Nagano.
As he grew into a high-profile producer, Draggan maintained a modest bearing. Paul Gardner ’86, who has known him Draggan for 20 years, remembers, “When I worked at the School of Journalism, I would take students to New York City to see what it was like to live and work there.” He noticed Draggan’s graciousness with the students, the way he “never talked down to them, always treated them as equals, not only telling them which button to push but also who might they call for a job or a lead on a job. He’s won Emmys and he continues to come back and speak to students.”
Draggan joined the news team at “60 Minutes II,” where he continued a long-time collaboration with Bob Simon. The pair won two more Emmys–for “The Lost Children,” the story of children orphaned in post-war Britain who were shipped 12,000 miles to Australia but were never adopted; and “First Casualty,” which focused on the official status of the first American lost in the Gulf War.
These days Draggan travels widely, from the Middle East to the Orient to Africa, documenting the stories that give his audiences a glimpse of the ebb and flow of life on planet Earth. Still, he keeps tabs on Chapel Hill and his alma mater’s academic and athletics endeavors. He often returns to speak to students, and his father, Vasa Mihailovich, sends basketball and football scores as soon as they’re available. Draggan presented the Nelson Benton lecture last February and is on the journalism school’s Board of Visitors.
For all his wandering, Draggan is remembered in Chapel Hill for something he claims he was “not particularly good at.” Woody Durham ’63 begs to differ. At the ripe young age of 19 Draggan became Woody’s color analyst for the Tar Heel Sport Network’s coverage of Carolina games. He did it while also writing for The Daily Tar Heel and working as a broadcaster at WCHL. “Not only could he do work on the air, but he had already displayed his expertise at doing the preparation,” Woody says. “I knew how thorough, knew how detailed he was. He is one of the best of his kind that I’ve ever been around. And he continues to apparently just get better at what he does.”