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.