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That Time of Year Once Again:  Goodbye, IUP -- Hello Real World

JesickIt’s that special time of spring once again, here on campus and here in the IUP journalism department:  graduation.

On Sunday, May 3, we conducted our 29th annual departmental commencement ceremony, and for about the fifth straight year, in Waller Hall Theater.  For the 10th straight year, we continued a practice of having one of our alumni return to campus to deliver what you might call the keynote address to our grads.  This year, it was Jeff Krakoff from the Class of 1986, who now is a director at Burson-Marsteller in Pittsburgh.  Jeff was an appropriate choice this year because he’s the professional adviser to the newly chartered student chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSSA.)  Alumna Michele Dougherty McCoy (1993), now part of the journalism faculty, serves as the faculty adviser to PRSSA, and she credits Kaitlyn Johnston (2009), the organization’s president, as being the guiding force behind this achievement.

Jeff Krakoff

Jeff (right) is another in an impressive lineup of speakers who, through not only their words but also their credentials, accomplishments, positions and professional resumes, have impressed and inspired their student audiences and the students’ families and friends.  It all began with Cindi Lash Finder (Class of 1980) in 1999 and has continued every spring since – and even in our December departmental ceremony begun in 2006 – with the following speakers (their own graduation year in parentheses): Pam Ellis Wigley (1983), Tim Wesley (1983), Pat Frantz Cercone (1985), Ron Wahl (1982), Tom Bickert (1978), Robyn Miller Beckwith (1985), Tim Hayes (1982), Elaine Jacobs Smith (1993), Matt Hughes (1989), Shari Trinkley (1981), Dotty Law Hanna (1982) and Mark Richards (1996).

To the best of my knowledge and based on the latest information the department has, here’s quick rundown on where those speakers are today.  Cindi is the Sunday editor at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.  Pam is working PR at La Roche College in suburban Pittsburgh, Pat in PR-marketing at the University of Pittsburgh-Bradford and Tim Wesley is vice president of investor relations at Webtec in Wilmerding.  Ron was the longtime PR guy at Pitt and with the Pittsburgh Steelers who’s now in the business world.  Tom is the managing editor at the Beaver County Times. Robyn has worked in PR at and is now the chief executive officer for Tri Rivers Surgical Associates in Pittsburgh’s North Hills, and Tim Hayes has his own communications firm in Pittsburgh.

Shari and Elaine both work for IUP:  Shari as director of major gifts, and Elaine’s title is web editor. Mark is also in town as head of PR for the Indiana Regional Medical Center, and Dotty is the senior vice president of the Foundation at St. Vincent Health Center in Erie.  Matt worked in development for years at Carnegie Mellon University, IUP and St. Margaret’s Hospital in Pittsburgh.  He’s now in private business.

Back to the May 3 ceremony itself.  Besides Jeff’s presence and his remarks, I think our May and August Class of ’09 graduates were able to benefit from the words of two other alumni(ae) who had written to me recently.  One is  Bob Cooper (1983), the founder and president of Frontier Service Design, a consulting firm with clients such as Proctor & Gamble, DuPont and Comcast.  His company is in Malvern in suburban Philadelphia.  In part, here’s what his message to our grads said:  “My journalism degree from IUP has served me very well over the past 25 years.  I think journalism is the single best major in liberal arts because if you can think and speak and, especially, write clearly, you can do anything.”

In my closing comments to our grads and their friends and families, I joined Bob’s words with those from Monica Rizzo (1987).   In her letter to me in late April, she recognized that the commencement season was upon us and thought that this year’s class might benefit from some recent accomplishments in her career.  In a recent issue of People magazine, Monica, who works out of Los Angeles, wrote the cover story and had three other major features in the magazine.

 “What gave me immense pride,” she wrote, “is that my journalism career began at IUP.  Most of my colleagues have degrees from prestigious schools like Stanford, USC, Northwestern, Columbia and NYU.  Before coming to People, they wrote for Newsweek and The New York Times.  My only clips were from The Penn and The Indiana Gazette.  Yet, here I am, working nose to nose with the country’s best entertainment writers. 

 “I urge IUP’s journalists of tomorrow to enter the working world with confidence that they can achieve anything they put their mind to.  I’m living proof of that.  It’s been 22 years since I graduated from IUP.  I want to thank the department for supplying me with the nuts and bolts with which I have built a thriving career.”

At People, Monica’s main beats are Dancing With the Stars, American Idol, Lost and anything Disney Channel-related.

Monica’s and Bob’s words reminded me of a report that I compiled this past year for the dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, the unit where the journalism department is academically located.  He asked each department chair to compile a “brag” sheet about our alumni; he was looking for some “big, recognizable names.”  So, without having to think too long and too hard and relying on my memory, here’s the alumni information I forwarded to him:

A sampling of of where IUP Journalism graduates have worked or are working in:

Newspapers/Magazines/Wire Services – Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, USA Today, Dallas Morning News, Los Angeles Times, Cleveland Plain-Dealer, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Forbes magazine, Pittsburgh magazine, Lehigh Valley Style magazine, People, Associated Press
Public Relations – H.J. Heinz, Hewlett-Packard, Ketchum, Federal Reserve, NASA, Eli Lilly, IBM, AT&T, DuPont, Bristol-Myers Squibb

And for good measure, I threw in some universities where our alumni have earned graduate degrees – Syracuse, Ohio University, Ohio State, Northwestern, Columbia, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Emerson, Indiana-Bloomington.

Of course, IUP journalism certainly has a sprinkling of grads enjoying the myriad of benefits that come from working on a college campus and living on the academic calendar.  For example, there’s Vince Benigni (1983), who’s been teaching PR at the College of Charleston in South Carolina since earning his doctorate at the University of Georgia.  Beverly Singel Molnar (1984) is a senior writer/editor in the Department of University Publications at Penn State in University Park.  Mary Dolheimer (1987) is the assistant dean in the Office of Communications at York College of Pennsylvania in York.  Her assistant director is Alicia Kollar Brumbach (2005).  Kelly Jones Rimmer (1996) is director of marketing, communications and alumni relations at Penn State’s Dickinson School of Law.  Diane Lamoureux Gegg (1983) is also in central Pennsylvania working as the director of the annual fund at Elizabethtown College.  Plus, Lisa Sherry Powers (1984) is now the public information director at Penn State.

On another note:  Most journalism majors, as undergraduate students, enrolled in a class called Layout, Design and Production.  Relatively recently, a followup course began.  It’s called Publications, and in that one semester, Pat Heilman’s students, working as a magazine staff, create a real magazine, both online and hard copy.  This spring’s publication is called “Taste of Class.”  What a lot of hard work!  I urge you to check out the achievement of a group of your successors and their creation:   a “Taste of Class.”

And, finally, I urge you to send me information about what’s happening in your professional life.  Let me know your suggestions for this newsletter as well as your criticisms.  Especially, let me know any updates concerning contact information about you or any of your journalism classmates.

It’s always amazing to me and exciting, too, to  somehow discover a new “nugget” of information about our department’s “products.”  Here’s a parting example:  Keith Robinson (1977), who graduated with a journalism major or concentration three years before journalism separated from the English department.  Keith is the bureau chief for the Associated Press in Indianapolis, has been in that city since 2000 and has worked for the AP since 1984.

Talk with you again soon.  I have so much special, interesting “stuff” yet to share.  Thanks for your help.





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