Celebrating the Future
The SJMC celebrates student and alumni achievement
Almost 300 SJMC students, faculty, alumni, and friends gathered on May 5, 2005 for the School's annual Spring Celebration. The event, held at the Radisson Metrodome hotel on the University's East Bank, honored SJMC undergraduate and graduate scholarship winners and donors, the graduating class of 2005, and the SJMC Alumni Board's Award of Excellence recipient, political commentator D.J. Leary '61.
Speaking at the event, SJMC director Al Tims noted that the School awarded over 100 scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students, totaling over $400,000 for the 2005-06 school year. He also announced the establishment of six new funds for student support, including the Joseph and Jacqueline Kinderwater Scholarship Fund, the Glenn & Dolores Hanson Fellowship in Journalism & Mass Communication, the D.J. Leary Strategic Communications Fellowship, the Chuck Porter Prize in Strategic Communication, the Vincent Shea Graduate Fellowship in Strategic Communication, and the Ronald and Carol Handberg Scholarship.
Tims also paid special tribute to Professor Hazel Dicken-Garcia, long-time adviser of the School's chapter of Kappa Alpha Tau (KTA), who stepped down from her role as adviser this year. KTA is the national honor society for journalism and mass communication students, and Tims presented Dicken-Garcia with the KTA Outstanding Service Award from the organization's headquarters at the University of Missouri.
Professor T.K. Chang, who has taken over the role of KTA adviser, conducted the initiation ceremony for the new KTA inductees: Betsy Anderson, Jessica Brennan, Brianna Cohen, Meredith Ann Dickinson, Thomas Ernste, Matthew D. Graham, Yulia Lutchyn, Celeste Pape, Michelle Theilmann, Patrick Tierney, Jenna Ross, Yong Zhang Volz, and Kari Wold.
A highlight of the evening was the presentation of the SJMC Alumni Award for Excellence, chosen every year by the School's Alumni Board. This year's winner, D.J. Leary [see profile below], was introduced by Mary Lahammer '95, anchor of Twin Cities Public Television's "Almanac," and Norman Sherman, a longtime friend and colleague of Leary's. Both Lahammer and Sherman paid tribute to Leary's long career as an expert in Minnesota politics and media.
In his acceptance speech, Leary thanked the SJMC Alumni Board for the award and reflected on his time in the SJMC. "I truly believe that it was the lessons I learned in this School of Journalism--the guidance I received from a talented and dedicated J-School faculty and the sense of personal accomplishment that a degree from this school meant to my self-confidence--that created the foundation for what was to come later," Leary said. "All of the things that I took away from this University and this school left me better prepared throughout my career to recognize those opportunities that I now think of as good luck."
Also honored during the celebration were the 2005-06 Silha Center Fellows, Elaine Hargrove and Ashley Ewald. Amy Mattson Lauters and Xiaoli Nan, the winners of the prestigious Ralph D. Casey Award for Outstanding Dissertation Proposal, were also recognized.
D.J. Leary (B.A. '61) wins Alumni Award for Excellence
D.J. Leary, political commentator, former media director for Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, and a 1961 graduate of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, was honored with the SJMC Alumni Board's Award for Excellence on May 5, 2005, during the School's Annual Spring Celebration.
"Winning the lottery of life" is how Leary describes his life and career, which have combined his lifelong passion for politics with a mastery of strategic media communications and journalism. His career began in 1948 at the age of 12, when he recruited friends to distribute political literature for Harry Truman, Hubert Humphrey and Eugene McCarthy in St. Paul's Midway district. As a high school sophomore, he got his first job in television working at KSTP-TV in the mail room. After serving in the U.S. Navy and working as a reporter in California, Leary returned to Minnesota to attend the University of Minnesota's School of Journalism and Mass Communication, graduating in 1961.
After stints in sports commentating and broadcast management, he joined the 1968 presidential campaign of Hubert H. Humphrey; he also directed media efforts for Humphrey's campaigns in 1970, '72, and '76. While in Washington D.C., Leary was a political media consultant for candidates around the country, and during this time, he started Media Services Inc., a firm providing political consulting services to candidates. The company's direction later changed to providing public affairs media counseling for corporations and trade associations. Leary retired as Chairman and CEO of Media Services in 2005.
Leary is perhaps best known as the co-founder and editor of the political newsletter Politics in Minnesota, which he began in 1982 with partner Wy Spano. The subscriber-supported newsletter was published for almost 23 years, ending publication in February, 2005. For most of the past 20 years, Leary has been a regular political analyst on the Minnesota public television show "Almanac." Leary is a frequent commentator on politics and public affairs for television, radio, and in print.
"I feel incredibly fortunate to be honored with the Alumni Award for Excellence from the School of Journalism," Leary says. "It's like going to your own funeral--you get to hear lots of people say nice things about you and conveniently overlook all the bad things."
"I've had a lifelong relationship with this school that has been very rewarding," Leary adds. He recalls walking the halls of Murphy Hall and interacting with faculty members Mitchell Charnley, Hal Wilson, and director Bob Jones. "I particularly remember Hal Wilson," says Leary. "He used to teach a course in typography, and I would have a recurrent nightmare about that class, in which I dropped one of those California type cases and I would have to pick them all up and try to put them in their places."
Leary says that he has used his SJMC education throughout his prolific career. "Everything I've done has been tied into my initial embrace of media, and that embrace was encouraged so strongly in the School of Journalism," he says. "I was just doomed from the outset to just really be in love with the profession. I was just one of those lucky people that got up everyday and went out and was so excited about the unknown of what I was going to do that day. And I have many friends from this school that are exactly the same way."