Celebrating Kent State Journalism Professor’s Legacy, Global Impact

It’s time to celebrate the legacy of Evonne Whitmore, an associate professor of journalism and mass communication at Kent State University, who lost her battle with cancer this morning. The Fulbright Scholar was a broadcast journalist and held several leadership positions in the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC).

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When the Kent State University football team takes the field against the Alabama Crimson Tide here in Tuscaloosa next Saturday morning,  I’ll be thinking about one of the Kent State professors who made a real impact on my life.

When it comes to journalism and media, Evonne Whitmore was a winner in every way– a champion who constantly made touchdowns as a broadcast journalist, a media scholar, a program planner, newsletter editor and professional organization leader.

I was saddened, though not surprised,  today to learn that Dr. Whitmore lost her battle with ovarian cancer this morning.

You see “Von,” as she was known to those of us in broadcast journalism education, doesn’t miss an AEJMC annual conference unless something is really wrong.  (AEJMC is the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, a 99-year-old organization that’s the nation’s largest group of educators who teach in areas of journalism and mass media)

Two weeks ago today Von was scheduled to be on a panel with me discussing the status of EEO rules for broadcast television stations.    She, in fact, had invited me to join her in this discussion.

I later learned that she was ill and unable to travel to the AEJMC Convention, which was held earlier this month in St. Louis.

Leading the Way 

Illness is about the only thing that would keep Von away from AEJMC where she was supposed to be finishing her term as head of our Council of Divisions.

In that role, she was very involved in the planning of an association annual gathering that has become more difficult every year as more and more units (divisions and interest groups) have been created.

Those of us in charge of research paper sessions would receive regular communication from Von regarding our role in preparing for research competitions.

Even before ascending to this role, Von had served as newsletter editor for the Commission of the Status of Minorities.  I succeeded her in that position and found the job a whole lot easier because she set a model for what represented excellence in producing a division newsletter.

Setting a Model

As a broadcast journalism educator, Von was on the ball in helping her students learn how to present themselves not only on the air, but online as well.

Her digital portfolio is just one example of the way one brands him or herself in the Web environment.

Because of the care she took in documenting her work and sharing her achievements online, Von even beyond her own lifetime  has a way of teaching us the right way to do things.

Her teaching, in fact, went beyond the borders of the United States.    Amidst so many other things she was doing as a faculty member in the Kent State School of Journalism and Mass Communication, she was named a Fulbright Scholar.

This photo was one featured on Evonne Whitmore's digital portfolio.

A Global Strategy

In 2008, she spent time at Ahram Canadian University in Giza, Egypt, working on research and lecturing on promoting internationally accepted journalistic principles that will increase media credibility in Egypt.

I recall her talking about her travels to Egypt during my first visit to her campus in Kent, OH in 2009.  I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to see when I returned to Kent State earlier this year.

I’m hoping someone in her family when the time is right will take the multimedia assets that I know she gathered in Egypt and the writings that she’ s done and allow some of her students to produce a product that lets her legacy live on for years and years to come.

The Virginia Connection

Though I first met Von as a fellow panelist at the Broadcast Education Association several years ago, she and I never talked much about our mutual connection to my home state of Virginia.

She not only worked at my father’s alma mater, Hampton University, as the general manager of  WHOV-FM, but also across town in Virginia’s largest TV market– Hampton Roads– as a reporter at ABC affiliate WVEC-TV.

She lived her life to the fullest and left a legacy for those of us in journalism education to follow.

Reaction from Scholars Who Knew Her

As news spread about Dr. Whitmore’s passing, the comments came quickly today on the e-mail listserv for the AEJMC Minorities and Communication Division.

“Von Whitmore was a dedicated worker in AEJMC and a dear
friend to many of us, ” said Linda Callahan, who chairs the AEJMC Commission on the Status of Minorities.

Callahan took over as vice chair of the Commission after Whitmore, who was due to become vice chair of the commission, was name vice chair of the AEJMC Council of Divisions in 2007.

Others in both the Commission and the Minorities and Communication Division knew Whitmore for her scholarly contributions.

“Von contributed mightily to the body of research about diversity issues with her 2004 dissertation, said Columbia College Broadcast Journalism Coordinator Lillian Williams in a post today on the listserv. “Von’s research helps us to understand the actions, and reactions, of our schools to the standard, and the impact of that standard. ”

Whitmore’s dissertation was entitled An Historical Perspective On The Accrediting Council On Education in Journalism and Mass Communications from 1986-2003: Examination Of The Impact On Curriculum

A Legacy to be Celebrated And Continued

As the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2012,  I think it would be fitting to offer a special program built around the legacy of Von Whitmore– her international work,  her leadership and her scholarship.

She exemplifies the type of journalist, scholar and person we all should strive to be.

We will miss her.

 

 

Author: George Daniels

George L. Daniels is an associate professor of journalism at the University of Alabama. After spending eight years in the local television newsroom working as a producer at stations in Richmond, Virginia; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Atlanta, Georgia, Daniels moved from the newsroom to the classroom. He’s conducted research on diversity issues in the media workplace and change in the television newsroom as well as media convergence. Before going to work in television news, Daniels worked briefly as a freelance writer for The Richmond Free Press in his hometown of Richmond, Va.

7 thoughts on “Celebrating Kent State Journalism Professor’s Legacy, Global Impact”

  1. Thank you for this. Von was the first person I met when I applied for the MA program at Kent State in the School of JMC. She was then the graduate coordinator, just before she left for Egypt. When she returned, she became my committee chair and helped me accomplish something I did not think I would ever undertake – a quantitative thesis. While I often did not like to hear what she had to say during the editing process, I knew that in the end the product would be something to be proud of and it was worth it.
    I think Von always saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. She asked me to assist her in Europe this past summer on the Global Media Systems class to Geneva and Paris and had continually put opportunity at my feet during the time I have known her. I was very saddened by the news as well and have also sent a letter to her family that I hope through their reading, she, too will receive the message.

  2. Thank you for writing such a beautiful tribute to a woman who has meant the world to me — Evonne Whitmore, Ph.D. I loved her greatly and as I told one of the professors at Kent State, Dr. Whitmore was the one who sparked my love for tv producing. She was the first one to professionally recognize my potential to be a great collegiate educator and advocate and support me through graduate school. I was her graduate assistant and I worked with her on a number of projects she produced for AEJMC. Dr. Whitmore’s legacy has inspired me to follow in her footsteps and become a collegiate instructor. Dr. Whitmore truly changed my life and I will miss her greatly.

  3. Beautiful tribute. My last meeting with Von was in late June. We discussed content for an AEJMC panel. Von was passionate about AEJMC. She was wonderful mentor to me.

  4. Good job of capturing the influence had on so many students and fellow teachers. Let’s make sure her spirit lives on.

  5. Wanted to share something her husband said at the calling hours last night…that Von “had her arms around the world” and he meant that in terms of the people she impacted, the people she loved, the people she helped and encouraged and in terms of her reach as a journalist. What he said, stuck with me…

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