All in the Family

The SJMC has been the collegiate home of five generations of students, and some of those students have watched their own children come through the corridors of Murphy Hall. Call it a "family thing."

Mother and Son: Beth and Matt DePoin

Beth and Matt depoint"Blown away and very excited!" is how Beth DePoint (B.A. '76) describes her reaction when her son, Matt, e-mailed to tell her he had been accepted into the SJMC to study public relations. At the time, Beth was serving a tour of duty with the U.S. Army in Iraq and Kuwait; when she left, Matt had been studying finance.

When he was looking at colleges, Beth offered to show him around Murphy Hall, but he refused. "She accepted that at the time," Matt says, "but she told me what a great experience the SJMC was for her, and that it helped her get to where she is now." After taking a few economics courses, Matt decided that finance wasn't for him--and focused on his love of writing instead. Matt is now studying public relations in the SJMC and will graduate in the spring of 2006.

Although Beth's studies in the SJMC were in what was then called the "newseditorial" sequence, she's now a public relations professional. As the public relations manager for Rise, a Minneapolis nonprofit agency, her work combines all aspects of communication. "I think my SJMC writing/reporting courses were the most valuable to me in what I do today," she says. She particularly remembers professor Arnold Ismach, Walter Brovald's Community Journalism course, R. Smith "Smitty" Schuneman's photography classes, and Jean Ward's reporting classes.

Since only two PR classes were offered when she was a student, Beth is pleased with the wide range of courses that her son has been able to take; Matt's favorite courses include Cases in Strategic Planning and Thinking and Psychology of Advertising. He's a member of the Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), which has helped him network with people who are in careers that he's interested in. Number one on that list is a job in sports marketing: "When I graduate in the spring, my dream job would be working at a major college or university doing sports PR and marketing," Matt says.

"I have really enjoyed following Matt's Murphy Hall studies," Beth says. "His classes are so different than ones I took--in many ways, they are much more real-world and hands-on. I think Matt's getting a great education."

Aunt and Niece: Michelle Juntunen and Emily Johns

Michelle Juntunen and Emily JohnsWhen SJMC senior Emily Johns decided to major in journalism after her freshman year at the University, she didn't realize she was following in the footsteps of her aunt, Michelle (Rivet) Juntunen (B.A. '70). "When I first arrived at the U, I was an honors student in IT," says Emily, who will graduate from the SJMC in December of 2005. "After two semesters of calculus, physics, and chemistry, I decided engineering wasn't for me, and I decided to major in journalism."

Emily always knew that her aunt was a groundbreaker--Michelle was hired by Duluth's WDIO-TV as its first woman reporter and anchorperson--but didn't know she had attended the SJMC. "I had always heard from my family members that aunt Michelle was the first female anchor in Duluth, but I'd never realized that she had graduated from SJMC until I became a student here," Emily says. "Since then, though, I've talked about it with her a lot. I appreciate having another journalism nerd in the family!"

As a "journalism nerd" in the SJMC, Michelle remembers professor Irving Fang particularly well. "I have a vivid memory of Dr. Fang trying to teach us to deliver reports on camera when the school had no television cameras," says Michelle. She recalls Fang sitting in the back of a Murphy Hall classroom with the student "reporter" behind a lectern at the front; Fang would touch his finger to his nose to indicatewhen the camera was "on." "Obviously, a lot has changed at Murphy Hall in 35 years," Michelle says.

Emily is now reaping the benefits of Murphy Hall in 2005. "My favorite journalism class was probably Media Law with Jane Kirtley," says Emily, who also cites visiting associate professor Chris Ison and instructor Paul McEnroe as favorite teachers. After graduation in December, she'd like a job in print journalism, noting that her SJMC classes, her work as a writer and editor at the Daily, and her internships--at Duluth's News Tribune, the Star Tribune's Washington, D.C., bureau, the Pioneer Press, and the Associated Press--have all prepared her well. "The SJMC does a great job teaching students how to write stories," Emily says, "but they have also provided me the opportunities to learn about the professional world I am about to enter."

Father and Son: John Finnegan Sr. and John Finnegan Jr.

John Finnegan Sr. and John Finnegan Jr.John Finnegan Sr. (B.A. '48, M.A. '65) and his son, John Finnegan Jr. (M.A. '78, Ph.D. '85) share more than a name. Both pursued multiple degrees at the SJMC and went on to esteemed careers: John Senior as the executive editor of the Pioneer Press and John Junior as a professor and the newly named dean of the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota.

"I had wanted to be a newspaper reporter since I was 12 years old," says John Senior, who was the editor of several small papers before leaving to serve in World War II in 1943.

When he returned from Army service,he enrolled in the SJMC to study with the "unparalleled" faculty led by then-director Ralph Casey. "Dr. Casey thought I might make a decent teacher, but urged me to continue working as a newsman for a few more years," says John Senior, who went on to a 38-year career at the St. Paul Dispatch and Pioneer Press newspapers.

John Junior's career as a professor of public health has been more of a "tangled path," as he puts it. He joined the SJMC in 1973 to pursue an M.A., and then continued in the Ph.D program. There, he was offered a research assistant position by F. Gerald Kline, then the director of the SJMC and a co-principal investigator for an NIH grant called the Minnesota Heart Health Program. Ultimately, his work led to a faculty position in the School of Public Health, which named him dean in the fall of 2005.

Both father and son have remained connected to the SJMC. John Senior was an adjunct instructor in the School for 17 years and was instrumental in reinstituting the course in community journalism. "This School has given me so much," John Senior says, "and it is so important to the development of excellence in journalism in the state of Minnesota that I have felt compelled to do whatever I can to assist the School."

As a faculty member in the University's School of Public Health (SPH), John Junior has stayed true to the interdisciplinary roots he developed while a student in the SJMC. He notes that the SJMC and the SPH now jointly sponsor the M.A. Program in Health Journalism that is currently in its third year. "SJMC has always been a crossroads of sorts in the academy because of its multidisciplinarity and the vast topic that is communication science and art," he says. "Its connection with the SPH has been particularly strong and long lasting, and I am just so proud to be a part of that."

Mother and Daughter: Kathy and Liz Tunheim

Kathy and Liz TunheimKathy Tunheim, a 1979 graduate of the University of Minnesota, is a public relations success story: She's a founding partner of Tunheim Partners Inc., a Twin Cities public relations firm, and the former vice president of public relations for Honeywell. Her major at the University? Political science.

Her expertise in PR, however, led to a request some years ago to work with director Albert Tims on a review of the School's relationship to the marketplace. She's now a member of the SJMC's National Advisory Board. "Serving on the advisory board has been an opportunity to provide a bridge to the industry in ways that I hope will be valuable for both SJMC faculty and students," Kathy says.

One of those students is Kathy's daughter, SJMC senior Liz Tunheim, who decided to study in the SJMC as a result of a summer job she had with her mom's firm. "I worked as an intern at Tunheim Partners immediately following my freshman year at the U," Liz says, "and realized that I liked public relations and I wanted to learn more."

Liz's favorite SJMC classes so far: Public Relations Writing with Gordon Leighton. "I left that class with a full portfolio and a lot more knowledge about PR writing," Liz says. She's also enjoyed John Eighmey's Psychology of Advertising class and her computer design class taught by adjunct instructor Peter Martin. This past semester she's been studying in Milan, Italy, and after graduation in the spring, she'd like to find a corporate position in the Twin Cities.

"The SJMC is a great fit for Liz," Kathy says. "She has been challenged, and learned a great deal both technically and about her own strengths and interests." For her part, Liz is grateful that those strengths and interests were encouraged by her mother: "When I mentioned to my mom that I really liked writing, she suggested I look into studying in the SJMC," Liz says, "and that advice definitely brought me to the School. Like always, she was right."



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This page contains a single entry by cla published on August 8, 2008 1:58 PM.

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