By Dr. Terry M. Clark
The Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame celebrated its 45th year this year, the same year as the host University of Central Oklahoma celebrates its 125th year.
The three most recent presidents have been instrumental in its continued success and growth--former Governor George Nigh, Dr. W. Roger Webb and now Dr. Don Betz. Financial support, a new location for higher visibility, a homecoming luncheon, scholarships and a designated director have marked progress in the last 20 years.
When former Governor George Nigh became UCO president in 1992, he spearheaded the effort to change the Hall of Fame to an annual luncheon.
With the assistance of the ONF and the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, the Hall of Fame began presenting each honoree with an engraved metal and wood plaque for personal display, in addition to the citations featuring all inductees.
In 2004, Clark managed to secure an annual budget line to defray expenses. In 2005, the sponsoring Journalism Department merged with the Communications department to form the Mass Communication Department, reflecting changes in journalism media, and the sponsoring organization, now exclusively the UCO Mass Communication Department.
UCO President W. Roger Webb approached Dr. Clark in 2007 about the need to relocate the Hall of Fame to the university center to increase its visibility and stature. Both recognized the need for a director who could devote more time to the project, free from the increasing administrative duties as department chairman.
When Dr. Clark stepped down as department chairman after 19 years in 2009, Dr. Webb appointed him director of the hall in a half-time capacity, charging him with relocating the Hall of Fame to the third floor of the Nigh University Center, and providing a budget for the project.
The first phase of the relocation was completed in time for the April 9, 2010 40th anniversary ceremony. The design of the logo and hall of fame display area was a project of UCO design students in the Charles Evans Studio and the Clocktower Studio, led by professors Valarie Settles, interior design, and Amy Johnson, graphic design, respectively.
Much of the work in the university center was completed by Glenn Hightower and Danny Whitley along with Rick Vega. The Hall of Fame relied on Sherry Sump, administrative assistant, without whom the “wheels would come off” until 2015.
New UCO President, Dr. Don Betz, has continued vital support for improving and funding the hall. His support and leadership—financial and virtual—emphasizes the importance and role of excellence in journalism in Oklahoma for our citizens, students and UCO.
Through the years the annual luncheon now attracts more than 250 people a year, becoming a sort of homecoming for members and families. Dr. Clark and the selection committees have made increased effort in the past 18 years to increase the diversity of the Hall, recognizing more women, broadcast journalists and people of color. The selection of 12 new honorees this year is an exception, but one the selection committee believed essential.
In 2011 the Brian J. Walke family endowed $10,000 for a scholarship in his memory to emphasize journalism ethics, and every year an outstanding UCO journalism student identified from the department's ethics courses, is awarded the scholarship. In 2013 the Oklahoma Press Association began a monthly donation in the names of journalism hall of fame members to found the OPA award. Those funds provide a scholarship to an outstanding journalism student every year with promise in newspaper journalism. Both the Walke and OPA winners' names are displayed in plaques in the Hall of Fame display area. The hall of fame has also received support at various times through the years from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.
In this the 45th Anniversary commemorative history and roll call of honorees, the plan was to put together the names and biographies of all the honorees, updating the book published in 2010.
In assembling the material, the photographs, except for the recent honorees, would not be of best the quality since we have so few original photographs. They were computer-scanned from the original paper citations.
However, the historical importance of the collection outweighs nor running the photographs. Jennifer Gilliland of OPA scanned the citation bios to avoid typesetting. Clark also made the decision not to change any of the copy in the original citations, other than inserting dates of death when found. In this update, only dates of death in the last five years have been added.
On a personal note, Dr. Clark says working with the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame is an honor and a dream job as a journalist, weekly newspaperman and grateful member of the Hall of Fame.
You can find all the members of the Hall of Fame on our website: