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).

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.



Kent State’s Franklin Hall is a great place to talk Scholastic Journalism

Kent State University’s Franklin Hall is hosting the Center for Scholastic Journalism Board Meeting today.

KENT, Ohio– Today is my second time visiting the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Kent State University and the place has been as great as the people gathered to talk about scholastic journalism.

Members of the Center for Scholastic Journalism Advisory Board arrive at Franklin Hall for today's meeting.

The last time I was here, I attended a ethics symposium in First Energy lecture hall.

The classroom space throughout the recently renovated Franklin Hall is great.

You can see the Convergence Lab on the second level of Franklin Hall from the entrance to the building.

I’ve already had a chance to check out the business offices of The Daily Kent Stater.

Today we’re in the Hirsch Convergence Laboratory, which has the modular furniture that could be used to convert this teaching space into a board room.

Candace Perkins Bowen, director of the Center for Scholastic Journalism opens today's meeting as CSJ Chair Mark Goodman (left) and Dean Stan Wearden listen.

Newsweek Article Referenced At Scholastic Journalism Meeting

Newsweek article “How Dumb Are We” highlighted at Scholastic Journalism meeting at Kent State University.

KENT, Ohio– The dean of Kent State University’s College of Communication and Information used the week’s Newsweek article, “How Dumb Are We” to kick off the 2011 meeting of the Center for Scholastic Journalism Advisory Board, which is going on today in KSU’s Franklin Hall.

The article called attention to the civic ignorance of Americans, 38 percent of the whom failed a U.S. Citizenship Test, given by Newsweek.

Stan Wearden told those at the meeting here today that scholastic media have the potential to “transform the nation” by helping to build civic awareness through middle and high school journalism.

“Scholastic media lay the groundwork and show them the importance of being informed,” he said.

Good Evening from Kent, Ohio

On my second trip to Northeast Ohio, I am learning lots of new things as I attend a Center for Scholastic Journalism Board Meeting this week at Kent State University.

KENT, Ohio– My second visit to Northeast Ohio started this morning with visions of snow on the ground as our plane flew into Cleveland-Hopkins Airport.

Hey, the renovations that were going on at the airport when I visited in September 2009 are done and the airport looks great, though not as busy as I expected.

After spending much of the day touring the Cleveland area, including the area known as Ohio City and  the Beachwood Community with a former faculty colleague,  I am enjoying the small college town of Kent, an hour’s drive from Cleveland.

This marker on U.S. Highway 43 tells you're just about at Kent State University.

We’re in town for a meeting of the Center for Scholastic Journalism Board, which had a kick-off dinner tonight at the Pufferbelly, Ltd., an old railway depot in the heart of Kent.

The Center for Scholastic Journalism is one of the leading College efforts to focus on outreach and research involving middle and high school journalism.

It’s great to gather with colleagues from around the country who are advocates for getting students turned on to journalism at an early age.  Many of these same individuals are teaching in journalism programs at colleges and universities from as far away as California.  Other members represent key journalism organizations such as the Radio-TV Digital News Foundation or the Newspaper Association of America Foundation.

The Center for Scholastic Journalism Board posed for a dinner shot after our great meal at Pufferbelly, Ltd. in downtown Kent, Ohio.

I learned tonight that there is a bit of history of Kent as a stop on the underground railroad.  A sign outside of the Pufferbelly helped me understand this interesting fact about Kent.

I’m told a new hotel is being built here in downtown Kent that will have a conference center attached to it.   So, I bet this will not be my last time to visit Kent State University.

Even as I write this post, I am watching an old co-worker from my days in Cincinnati, Dave Summers, who is now working at WKYC-TV Channel 3 in the Cleveland market.   Dave hasn’t changed a bit since we worked together at WLWT in the 1990s.

Looking forward to seeing more tomorrow on the Kent State University campus in Franklin Hall, home of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.