Last modified: Thursday, September 1, 2011
To mark its centennial, IU Journalism School inducts its inaugural group of distinguished alumni
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Sept. 1, 2011
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- As part of its centennial celebration, Indiana University's School of Journalism will induct 15 accomplished journalists and communications professionals into its inaugural class of distinguished alumni.
The inaugural recipients of the school's Distinguished Alumni Award include five of the school's Pulitzer Prize winners -- including Ernie Pyle, whose name adorns the school's building -- and another alumnus who was honored when his paper was awarded a Pulitzer for public service.
Among those being inducted are an alumnus who led the journalism program for 30 years, two newspaper publishers who foster professional advancement through the Poynter Institute, a founder of one of the world's largest public relations companies, a guiding force at the Associated Press as it grew in influence, and a photojournalist whose pictures helped to bring about civil rights history.
Three women -- the first female editor of the Indiana Daily Student, a co-creator of the iconic "I Love Lucy" television show and a retired placement director who has been closely associated with the program longer than any other person -- also will be honored.
"These awards celebrate the great history of one of the oldest journalism programs in the world," said Bradley J. Hamm, dean of the School of Journalism. "The contributions of these 15 people are immeasurable, and we are very proud to honor them this year.
"The centennial celebration is a perfect time to recognize the first class of recipients. We know that with more than 10,000 current alumni, we have many outstanding people to select in the future," Hamm added.
The induction ceremony will take place Friday, Sept. 16, as part of a special weekend of activities Sept. 15-18 to celebrate 100 years of journalism education at IU. Other activities will include reunions, professional breakout sessions, banquets and a screening of a film about Pyle.
Complete information about the weekend's activities and online registration is available at https://journalism.indiana.edu/programs/centennial/.
With the graduation of the 2011 class in May, the IU School of Journalism now has more than 10,000 living alumni.
Here is information about each of the inductees:
- Florence Myrick Ahl, B.A. 1899, the first female editor-in-chief of the IDS in 1897. After graduating with a degree in English, Ahl became a community leader in Centerville, Ind., and was founder of the community's public library. She also was president of the Centerville Woman's Club, a charter member of the Collegiate Club and the Scribblers. She died in 1946.
- Marjorie (Smith) Blewett, B.A., '48, who has been closely associated with IU journalism longer than anyone else. The Bloomington native entered the department as a freshman 67 years ago and returned to teach in 1965 after a career at newspapers in Bloomington and Lafayette, Ind. She is best known for her work as the school's placement director from 1969 to 1990. She continues to be involved with the school, serving as its historian and as a member of its alumni board.
- Kent Cooper, L.H.D., '41, an innovator of the concept of news distribution, paving the way for the success of modern news services such as the Associated Press. A native of Columbus, Ind., Cooper attended IU until his father's death forced him to leave and return to his hometown newspaper. While at the Scripps-McRae Press Association, he came up with the idea of distributing news to rural newspaper editors via telephone circuit. In 1910, Cooper moved to New York as traveling inspector of telephone circuits for the AP and moved up the management ranks to the position of executive director. He developed a mechanism to send photographs by wire and established AP in Britain, eventually breaking Reuters' monopoly in Europe. He established four journalism scholarships at IU before his death in 1965.
I. Wilmer "Will" Counts, M.S., '54 (Education) and Ed.D., '67, whose images of unrest during the integration of Little Rock Central High School in 1957 still influence civil rights discussion today. His photos -- distributed on the AP wire and later published on the front pages nationwide -- influenced President Dwight Eisenhower's decision to use federal troops to restore peace. His photo of a black student being harassed by a white peer as she entered the school was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Forty years later, he and his wife organized reconciliation between the two people. In 1963, after stints as an AP photographer and picture editor in Chicago and Indianapolis, Counts joined IU's journalism faculty and directed and developed the school's photo and visual communication sequence through a period of phenomenal growth. He retired 32 years later and died in 2001.
- Madelyn Pugh Davis, B.A., '42, who forged a career as one of television's top comedy writers when women in the business were a rarity. She is best known as the co-creator and co-writer of the "I Love Lucy" show with writing partner Bob Carroll. The show staring Lucille Ball was nominated four times for Emmy Awards, winning twice, and remains a timeless classic. Davis and Carroll worked together for more than 50 years and received a Laurel Award for TV Writing Achievement from the Writers Guild of America. Davis, also a recipient of IU's Distinguished Alumni Service Award, died this past April.
- Michel du Cille, B.A., '85, whose Pulitzer Prize winning photographs of people facing extraordinary challenges and inconceivable tragedy have drawn public attention to neglected social issues. He has earned two individual Pulitzer Prizes and he is named on a third Pulitzer for his newspaper. Du Cille shared his first Pulitzer with a fellow Miami Herald photographer for their coverage of the 1985 eruption of a Colombian volcano. His second Pulitzer, also for the Herald, was for a photo essay of crack cocaine addicts in a Miami housing project. In 1988, he joined the Washington Post as picture editor, and he eventually became head of the Post's photojournalism staff. The third Pulitzer, awarded to the newspaper for public service, came in 2008 and included his role in the coverage of treatment of wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
- Thomas French, B.A., '81, who received the 1998 Pulitzer Prize in Feature Writing while at the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, where he had worked since graduation. Three of his serials have been published as books, including his most recent project, about the inner world of Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo, Zoo Story. In 2009, French left the paper to join the journalism school faculty as the Riley Endowed Chair in Journalism. In addition to his reporting, French also leads writing workshops across the United States and worldwide. He is a writing fellow at the Poynter Institute.
- John W. Hill, L.H.D., '71, co-founder of Hill & Knowlton, today a leading international communications consultancy with 80 offices in 44 countries. A native of Shelbyville, Ind., Hill studied journalism at IU from 1910 to 1912, before leaving for an 18-year career as a newspaper entrepreneur, reporter, editor and financial columnist. In 1927, he opened a public relations office in Cleveland, Ohio, and after a client's bank went out of business during the Depression, he took into partnership its public relations director, Donald Knowlton. In 1934, Hill moved the company headquarters to New York to counsel the American Iron and Steel Institute. Other clients included trade associations and companies such as Proctor & Gamble, Texaco and Gillette. He led the company until 1962 and remained involved with it until his death in 1977.
- Donald Ring Mellett, Class of '13, who was honored when his paper, The Canton Daily News (later acquired by The Repository), was awarded the 1927 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. The paper was so honored largely because of efforts by Mellett, who was assassinated the year before after confronting local organized crime in the Ohio city. A charter member of IU's chapter of the journalism honor society Sigma Delta Chi, Mellett left the university before graduation due to illness. He worked at several newspapers across Indiana and Ohio before becoming the editor of the Canton paper. His journalism campaigns against corruption in the police department, school system and hospital on the editorial pages provoked death threats against him and his family. On July 26, 1926, he was gunned down outside his home. In the trial that followed, three men and the police chief were sentenced to life in prison.
- Gene Miller, B.A.'50, D.H.L., '77, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. After graduation, Miller worked at the Ft. Wayne Journal-Gazette, Wall Street Journal and the Richmond (Va.) News Leader before arriving at the Miami Herald. As an investigative reporter there, he won two Pulitzer Prizes for reporting that helped four innocent people wrongly convicted in Florida for murder. Over a 48-year career, Miller covered a wide array of local, national and international stories. He was the first print journalist to enter Jonestown in Guyana, to cover the Jim Jones-led mass suicide. His other stories included the assassination of President John Kennedy, the Elian Gonzalez custody dispute and a who's who of newsmakers from throughout the final decades of the 20th century. He died in 2005.
- James Polk, B.A., '64, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1974 for his reporting as a staff writer for the Washington Star-News on financial irregularities that were part of the Watergate scandal. A native of Oaktown, Ind., Polk has received the Raymond Clapper award twice as best reporter in Washington and has won the Sigma Delta Chi national reporting award. In his work for NBC News from 1975 to 1992, he covered many major national or international stories of misdeed, fraud, extortion, espionage, terrorism or corruption. In 1992 he joined CNN, where he is a senior documentary producer. He helped manage the network's extended coverage of the Oklahoma City bombing, for which CNN won an Emmy in 1996. His documentary on the subject won a National Headliner award. He also contributed to coverage of the World Trade Center bombings in 1993 and the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. He continues to report, write and produce for the network.
- Nelson Poynter, B.A., '24, L.L.D. '76, founder of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies and chairman of his family's newspaper company The Times Publishing Co., where he also served as general manager, editor and president. During World War II, he activated the U.S. Information Agency and in 1948 founded with his wife Henrietta the noted legislative news source, Congressional Quarterly. A native of Sullivan, Ind. he was committed to carrying on his philosophy of independent journalism to new generations of journalists and founded the Modern Media Institute, which became the Poynter Institute. He founded and endowed the Poynter Center for the Study of Ethics and American Institutions at IU, and he co-chaired the 1974 fund drive for the renovation of Ernie Pyle Hall. In 1958, he received IU's Distinguished Alumni Service Award. He died in 1978.
- Ernie Pyle, Class of '23, D.H.L., '44, IU journalism's most famous student. The World War II correspondent earned a Pulitzer Prize in 1944. A native of Dana, Ind., Pyle left IU one semester short of graduation to become a reporter at the LaPorte Herald. A few months later he left for Washington, D.C., where he spent most of his career working for the Washington Daily News and the Scripps-Howard News Service. He began to achieve national attention as the country's first regular aviation correspondent, starting in 1928. In 1935, he launched a series of more than 2,000 columns about his travels across the United States, Canada and Latin America with his wife. But it was his war columns -- read by millions of Americans -- that ensured his legacy in journalism and American history. In April 1945, a few months before the end of World War II, Pyle was killed while reporting in the Pacific theater on a small island near Okinawa.
- John E. Stempel, B.A., '23, who led the IU journalism department from 1938-1968. His life-long affiliation with IU and journalism began as a student in the early 1920s. He was editor of the IDS and worked on the student paper at the same time as future IU president Herman Wells and fellow inductees Pyle and Poynter. After graduation, he earned a masters degree from Columbia University and worked on the New York Sun and The Express in Easton, Penn. Under his leadership, IU became one of the first accredited journalism education programs in the nation. He increased the number of faculty and broadened the scope of studies available to students. He hired the program's first broadcast professor and established the doctoral program in 1963. He also created the High School Journalism Institute.
- Paul Tash, B.A., '76, chairman and chief executive officer of the Times Publishing Co. A native of South Bend, Ind., Tash graduated summa cum laude from IU. As a Marshall Scholar, he graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Laws degree from Edinburgh University in Scotland in 1978. He began with the St. Petersburg Times as a summer intern in 1975 and became chairman and CEO in 2004 after working as a reporter, city editor, metro editor, Washington bureau chief and executive editor. He also is chairman of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, which owns Times Publishing. He oversaw the development of the successful online enterprises TampaBay.com and PolitiFact.com . PolitiFact.com is known nationally for examining the truthfulness of political statements and campaign promises. It was awarded the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting. He also serves on the boards of the Pulitzer Prizes, the Associated Press and the Newspaper Association of America.