STUDENT MEDIA AT VANDERBILT
HALL OF FAME
The Student Media at Vanderbilt Hall of Fame was established in 2009 to honor Vanderbilt University alumni who have achieved outstanding personal or professional accomplishments and/or made distinguished and lasting contributions to their field and/or to society in general. Induction into the Hall of Fame is the highest honor Vanderbilt Student Communications can bestow on its former student journalists.
To be considered for induction in the Hall of Fame, candidates must meet the following criteria:
Last worked with Vanderbilt student media as a student staff member at least 10 years prior to their potential Hall of Fame induction date;
Contributed in a significant way as a staff member to one or more of Vanderbilt’s print or electronic student media organizations;
Distinguished themselves through their work and acts at a level that merits recognition of the highest honor bestowed by Student Media at Vanderbilt.
Questions about the Hall of Fame or the nomination process can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org
INDUCTEES BY YEAR
2009 STUDENT MEDIA HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES
LAMAR ALEXANDER Class of 1962
Sen. Alexander, who earned his bachelor’s degree in 1962, majored in Latin American Studies. He was a reporter and news editor of The Vanderbilt Hustler student newspaper. The Maryville, Tenn., native is a former two-term governor of Tennessee, U.S. secretary of education, University of Tennessee president and professor at Harvard’s School of Government. He earned his J.D. at New York University Law School. In private life, he helped found the nation’s largest provider of worksite day care, Bright Horizons Family Solutions Inc.
SKIP BAYLESS Class of 1974
Bayless, who grew up in Oklahoma City, Okla., attended Vanderbilt on the prestigious Grantland Rice Scholarship. The 1974 graduate covered sports for The Vanderbilt Hustler student newspaper and majored in English and history. Bayless developed a national reputation as a sports writer for the Miami Herald and Los Angeles Times. He wrote three books chronicling different eras of the Dallas Cowboys and was a prominent sports columnist in Dallas, Chicago and San Jose before being hired full time as a commentator by ESPN for programs like 1st and 10 and SportsCenter.
ROY BLOUNT, JR. Class of 1963
Blount, a Grantland Rice Scholarship recipient, came to Vanderbilt from Decatur, Ga., where he was editor of his high school newspaper. He majored in English and began working for The Vanderbilt Hustler student newspaper after becoming friends with Lamar Alexander and other student journalists. Blount became editor before graduating in 1963. He is a prolific writer and humorist who has authored 21 books. He’s a columnist for The Oxford American, contributing editor for The Atlantic Monthly, and panelist for NPR’s Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me.
MARY ELSON Class of 1974
Elson, a native of Oak Ridge, Tenn., majored in English at Vanderbilt. She was elected the first post-World War II woman editor of The Vanderbilt Hustler student newspaper. She worked at the Nashville Banner the spring of her senior year in 1974 before graduating magna cum laude/Phi Beta Kappa. She reported for the two Dallas newspapers before moving to the Chicago Tribune, where she held a variety of positions, including associate managing editor/features. At the Tribune, she edited a series about the Human Genome Project that won a Pulitzer Prize for exploratory journalism. Elson became managing editor of Tribune Media Services, the syndication and licensing division of Tribune Co., in 2004.
SAM FEIST Class of 1991
Feist, who majored in political science at Vanderbilt, began volunteering for The Vanderbilt Hustler student newspaper his first day on campus. Feist, who was born in Trinidad, hosted Viewpoint, a campus public affairs/talk program that aired on Nashville cable. He graduated magna cum laude and joined CNN full-time in 1991. He was founding executive producer of The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer. Feist was named political director and senior executive producer of political coverage during the 2008 presidential election. In January 2009 he became CNN’s vice president of Washington-based programming. Feist earned his law degree from Georgetown University Law Center.
2010 STUDENT MEDIA HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES
DON BENSON Class of 1974
Benson grew up in Nashville, loved Vanderbilt and developed a keen interest in radio during his teens. He found his way to campus and WRVU, where he began reporting news on a fill-in basis. WRVU became a large part of Benson’s college life. After graduating in 1974 with a B.A. in history, “D.B,” as he was called, began his radio career with Jefferson-Pilot at WQXI AM/FM in Atlanta. Now, with more than 30 years of radio industry experience, he is president and CEO of Lincoln Financial Media Co., whose parent acquired Jefferson-Pilot. Benson has overall responsibility for the operations of 14 radio stations in Atlanta, Miami, San Diego and Denver. Benson has been named to Radio Ink magazine’s list of “The 40 Most Powerful People in Radio.”
ALEX HEARD Class of 1980
Heard, a native of Jackson, Miss., enjoyed writing for The Hustler and later Versus. He earned his B.A. in English in 1980. After graduation, he moved to Washington, D.C., where he began working at magazines, and he’s been doing that ever since. Now he is the editorial director of Outside magazine. He also has worked as an editor and writer at Wired, The New York Times Magazine, New Republic and other publications. Heard’s new book, The Eyes of Willie McGee, tells the story of a young African American man from Laurel, Miss., who was executed in 1951 for allegedly raping a white housewife. To tell the story, Heard relied on exhaustive documentary research, including FBI documents, interview transcripts and the recollections of family members whose parents or spouses were involved in the case.
McGill, who was born in 1898 in Igou’s Ferry, Tenn., enrolled at Vanderbilt in 1917. He wrote a column called “Censored” for The Hustler and contributed to Jade, a student humor magazine. McGill also wrote poetry and became friends with some of the famed Fugitive writers. During his senior year, he was suspended for writing a Hustler column in which he criticized the administration for not using the $20,000 that was bequeathed by a former professor for a student lounge. He left the College of Arts and Science, although he later enrolled in Vanderbilt Law School. McGill never completed any degrees at Vanderbilt. He worked at the Nashville Banner newspaper, and in 1929, he joined the Atlanta Constitution, where he worked his way up to syndicated columnist, editor and publisher of the morning newspaper. McGill was a staunch supporter of civil rights and opposed social and educational segregation at a time when few around him spoke out on the issue. In 1959, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for editorials condemning hate crimes by the Ku Klux Klan. McGill died from a heart attack in 1969.
BUSTER OLNEY Class of 1988
Olney, who grew up on a farm in Vermont, came to Vanderbilt to study history, but said “my major was working at the newspaper and at Versus.” By age 15 he knew that he wanted to be a sportswriter, in particular, one who covered baseball. He does this now as a senior writer and analyst for all ESPN entities, appearing on programs such as “Baseball Tonight” and “Sports Center.” After graduating with a B.A. in history in 1988, Olney became the Nashville Banner beat reporter for the Nashville Sounds. He moved to the San Diego Union- Tribune and Baltimore Sun before joining The New York Times. He has been at ESPN since 2003. Olney is the author of The Last Night of the Yankee Dynasty: The Game, the Team, and the Cost of Greatness and of the forthcoming book How Lucky You Can Be, which is about basketball coach Don Meyer.
DR. RAPHAEL SMITH Class of 1955
According to the 1953 Commodore, Smith was among those who began work on a campus radio station, then called WVU. He served as the station’s first technical director and engineer. Smith earned his B.A. in chemistry in 1955 and then went to Harvard, where he received his M.D. He did tours of active naval duty during Vietnam and Desert Storm, where he was deployed to the Middle East. He joined the Vanderbilt faculty in 1969 and directed the Coronary Care Unit and Heart Station. He also became chief of cardiology at the Nashville Veterans Medical Center. Smith was in charge of a series of experiments involving the effect of weightlessness on astronauts’ heart function during the three Skylab missions. The cardiology unit at the Nashville VA Medical Center is named after him.
TRACY WILKINSON Class of 1980
Wilkinson grew up in Atlanta, Ga., and worked as a reporter and news editor for The Hustler. She earned her B.A. in English literature in 1980. After working for United Press International in Peru and Nicaragua, Wilkinson joined the LA Times in 1987. She has covered wars, crises and daily life in more than 50 countries. She now is based in Mexico City, where she is the Times’ bureau chief and a contributor to its La Plaza blog. Among her awards, Wilkinson received the George Polk Award for coverage of the Balkans and Kosovo and the Overseas Press Club Award twice. She also wrote the lead story in the Times’ Pulitzer-award-winning package on racially motivated riots. Her book The Vatican’s Exorcists: Driving Out the Devil in the 21st Century has been translated into half a dozen languages.
2011 STUDENT MEDIA HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES
TYLER KEPNER Class of 1997
Tyler Kepner published his own baseball magazine in high school and in his first year of college. He received the prestigious Fred Russell-Grantland Rice Scholarship and became editor-in-chief of the Hustler. Kepner wrote about the Anaheim Angels for the Riverside Press-Enterprise and the Seattle Mariners for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer before heading to The New York Times. Starting in 2000 he covered the Mets and then moved to the Yankees beat in 2002. In 2010, Kepner was named a national baseball writer for The New York Times.
FRED BUC Class of 1979
Fred Buc was a high school senior when he signed up for a class at Vanderbilt so he could work at WRVU. Buc later became general manager at WRVU and worked a part-time job at WKDA-AM and WKDF-FM while attending Vanderbilt. After college, he went to work full-time at WKDA-KDF. In the late ’80s Buc became part of the original “Rebel 100” staff of WRLT-FM. Buc then worked for Jefferson-Pilot Communications and KCFX-FM. He co-founded a national advertising agency before returning to WRLT, now known as Lightning 100. Buc was named general manager in 1998.
NEIL SKENE Class of 1973
Neil Skene was editor of the Hustler his senior year. After graduation, he joined the Tampa Times. Then he enrolled at Mercer University’s School of Law, where he graduated magna cum laude in 1977. Skene served as capital bureau chief at the St. Petersburg Times. He became editor of the St. Petersburg Evening Independent in 1984. He then led Congressional Quarterly as president from 1987 to 1997. Skene is vice chairman and legal counsel for software provider MedAffinity Corp. and president of Holly Lake Investments. He has been writing a series on the history of the Florida Supreme Court.
TERRY EASTLAND Class of 1971
Terry Eastland covered sports for the Hustler. He later held editorial positions at the Greensboro Record, San Diego Union and Virginia-Pilot. In 1983, Eastland was named chief speech writer for U.S. Attorney General William French Smith. He later became director of public affairs for the Justice Department. Eastland has written several books, and his articles have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, National Review, Commentary and New Republic. He was a correspondent on documentaries for PBS examining how the media covered a particular story, such as Gulf War Syndrome. He became publisher of The Weekly Standard in 2001.
FRYE GAILLARD Class of 1968
Frye Gaillard worked on the Hustler and the high-profile speaker series Impact Symposium, for which he helped bring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Senator Robert F. Kennedy to campus. He worked for the Mobile Register before returning to Nashville to write for the Race Relations Reporter newsletter. He eventually became Southern editor at the Charlotte Observer, where he covered the city’s landmark school desegregation case. Gaillard has written or co-authored more than 20 books, including Cradle of Freedom, The Dream Long Deferred and Watermelon Wine: Remembering the Golden Years of Country Music.
2012 STUDENT MEDIA HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES
LEE JENKINS Class of 1999
Lee Jenkins grew up in San Diego and was awarded the Russell- Rice Sportswriting Scholarship in 1993. He started his work at the Hustler covering sports. “Tyler Kepner assigned me my first story for the Hustler on Vanderbilt baseball player Josh Paul, who later went pro, before I had finished moving into my dorm,” Jenkins said. Jenkins served as Hustler editor-inchief, which he calls “the best job I ever had.” After graduation, Jenkins, an American Studies major, covered UCLA basketball and football for the Orange County Register and the Colorado Avalanche and Denver Nuggets for The Colorado Springs Gazette. In 2003 he joined The New York Times, where his assignments included being the beat reporter for the New York Mets. Jenkins’ numerous honors include first place in the New York Press Association (Sports Reporting) category and the Football Writers Association of America (Best Game Story). In 2007 he was named senior writer at Sports Illustrated, where he has covered everything from the Super Bowl to the NBA finals, with an emphasis on feature writing. Jenkins lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Vanderbilt alumna Elizabeth Cook Jenkins (’99), and their two children.
WILLIE GEIST Class of 1997
Geist Willie Geist recently was named co-host of the 9 a.m. hour of the Today show. He has hosted MSNBC’s “Way Too Early With Willie Geist” and co-hosts political show “Morning Joe.” He has a video blog on MSNBC.com called Zeitgeist. Geist grew up in Ridgewood, N.J., and when he joined the Hustler staff, he first worked as a staff sports writer and then an associate sports editor. “I had never covered sports because I’d been playing them my whole life,” Geist said. “Sports writing kept me close to the games in college.” Geist was named a contributing editor of the Hustler his senior year. Meanwhile, his interest in American, and particularly Southern, politics deepened with classes from political scientists like John Greer, Bruce Oppenheimer and John Kuzenski. Geist earned his bachelor’s degree in political science in 1997. He jumped into sports television as an editor and producer for CNN/Sports Illustrated, a 24- hour sports network based in Atlanta. In 2005 Geist joined MSNBC as a senior producer for “The Situation with Tucker Carlson.” His newsroom banter with Carlson became a regular feature of the program where Geist would report and offer his unique spin on the day’s news. Geist’s big break came in 2007 when he was named co-host of “Morning Joe,” which has grown to become arguably television’s most influential political show. Geist lives in New York City with his wife, Vanderbilt alumna Christina Sharkey Geist (’97), and their two children.
CLAY HARRIS Class of 1972
Harris, who grew up in Tampa, Fla., came to Vanderbilt as a national merit scholar. The university’s lack of a journalism school actually attracted him to campus, as he preferred to focus on the liberal arts. “In a remarkable way we were self-taught. None of us was a journalism major,” said Harris, who was editor-in-chief of the Hustler his senior year. He majored in history and economics. After his junior year, Harris competed with some 1,200 applicants for a Washington Post internship and won a coveted slot with the Los Angeles Times/ Washington Post News Service. Harris was hired by the Tampa Times after graduation. In 1973, the Washington Post offered him a position in London, where he would select and edit stories for their syndication clients. “This was long before the Internet and email so we were dealing with satellite windows, ticker tapes and telex operators,” Harris said. During that time, Harris met the man of his dreams and they have been together for more than 38 years. That relationship was a deciding factor in Harris’ decision to settle in London and build his career there. In 1979 Harris became a news editor at the Financial Times, which was launching its first international edition. He stayed at the Financial Times for nearly 30 years in a variety of reporting and editing positions and created Mudlark, a financial diary column, before retiring in 2007. Harris now is a freelance columnist for Securities & Investment Review.
2014 STUDENT MEDIA HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES
BRIDGET KELLEY Class of 1988
Kelley, of Bethesda, Maryland, is a New Jersey native. She worked for The Hustler all four years at Vanderbilt (1984-88) and served as editor-in-chief. She majored in English and history. She worked as a freelance reporter and producer in London and later in Washington, D.C. Kelley joined NPR in 1994 as an editorial assistant for Morning Edition, and she advanced to the helm of Weekend Edition. Along the way, she has helped shape NPR coverage of major stories, including Hurricane Katrina, terrorist attacks, U.S. presidential elections and more. She is now the senior supervising editor of All Things Considered.
CHUCK OFFENBURGER Class of 1969
Offenburger, an Iowa native, launched his journalism career at the age of 13 as sports editor for his hometown newspaper. At Vanderbilt, he majored in political science and reported for The Hustler, covering speakers and programs, including those related to civil rights and the Vietnam War. Offenburger served as editor-in-chief of The Hustler. Highlights of his career included writing more than 4,000 columns for the Des Moines Register. Offenburger left the paper in 1998 but continues to write on a freelance basis. He and his wife, Carla Offenburger, co-manage Offenburger.com, a news and opinion website.
JEFF ROTHSCHILD Class of 1977
Rothschild, of Los Altos, California, grew up in New Jersey. At Vanderbilt, he worked at WRVU throughout his undergraduate and graduate school years and served as station manager. Rothschild majored in psychology and received his bachelor’s degree in 1977. He then studied computer science at Vanderbilt and earned a master’s degree in 1979. Career milestones include co-founding Veritas Software in 1988 and gaming company Mpath Interactive in 1995. Rothschild now is vice president of infrastructure engineering at Facebook and a consulting partner with Accel Partners. He serves on the Vanderbilt Board of Trust and the university’s Technology Transfer Advisory Committee.
ALISON SCHOLLY Class of 1990
Scholly, of Chicago, grew up in nearby Glenview, Illinois, and joined WRVU during her freshman year at Vanderbilt. At WRVU, she worked as a disc jockey, assistant music director, general manager and business manager. Scholly majored in anthropology and earned her bachelor’s degree in 1990. After earning a master’s in journalism at Northwestern in 1994, she was hired into the nascent field of online media, eventually serving as vice president of interactive for the Chicago Tribune Media Group, overseeing all of Chicago Tribune’s web and mobile products. Since 2010, Scholly has been chief operating officer for Chicago Public Media.
DAVE SHEININ Class of 1991
Sheinin, of Baltimore, Maryland, grew up in Carrollton, Georgia, where he learned about the Fred Russell-Grantland Rice Scholarship. He received the scholarship when he came to Vanderbilt in 1987. As a first-year student, Sheinin broadcast news updates for WRVU and wrote for The Hustler. He also wrote for Versus magazine. Sheinin earned his bachelor’s degree in 1991, majoring in English and music. Sheinin has been covering baseball and writing features and enterprise stories for The Washington Post since 1999. His books include RG3: The Promise (Penguin, 2013), which is about Heisman Trophy winner and Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III.
2015 STUDENT MEDIA HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES
AMY BUCKNER CHOWDHRY Class of 1995
Chowdhry, an entrepreneur and native of Knoxville, Tennessee, majored in English and minored in East Asian Studies while working on the Commodore yearbook and The Vanderbilt Review. She rose to editor-in-chief of both publications. Chowdhry co-founded AnswerLab, a consulting firm whose clients include Facebook, FedEx, Nissan and Google. For the past three years, AnswerLab has made Fortune’s list of “Top 25 Companies to Work For.” Last year, Chowdhry was named one of Fortune’s 10 Most Promising Women Entreprenuers.
ERIC ETHERIDGE Class of 1979
Etheridge grew up in the Mississippi cities of Carthage and Jackson. As a Vanderbilt freshman in 1975, he began working for Versus, then a monthly feature magazine. Etheridge majored in English and served as Versus editor his senior year. After earning his BA in 1979, Etheridge moved to New York City and spent four years at The Nation. He went on to become associate editor at Harper’s Magazine and then editor at Rolling Stone and George. In 2008, Etheridge published Breach of Peace: Portraits of the 1961 Mississippi Freedom Riders, which features the mugshots of all the 328 riders arrested in Jackson, Mississippi, as well as new portraits and excepts of interviews with 80 of those riders. He is now a freelance photographer and also works with his wife, Kate Browne, documenting her public-sculpture series around the world.
ROY NEEL Class of 1972
Neel enrolled at Vanderbilt in 1963 and worked at the Vanderbilt Hustler for three years. He was drafted into the military after his junior year and was a Navy journalist from 1966-1970. Neel returned and graduated with a major in fine arts in 1972. Three years later he wrote Dynamite! 75 Years of Vanderbilt Basketball. He became legislative director for then-U.S. Rep. Al Gore and later chief of staff for Gore’s Senate office. Neel also worked in the White House as Vice President Gore’s chief of staff and President Bill Clinton’s deputy chief of staff. Neel is currently teaching adjunct in the Vanderbilt Department of Political Science and working on a political novel to be published later this year.
GEORGIA STITT Class of 1994
Stitt came to Vanderbilt in 1990 from Covington, Tennessee. She worked on the Hustler’s Perpectives section while majoring in theory and composition at the Blair School of Music. Stitt earned her bachelor of music degree in 1994 and moved to New York where she pursued her career in music and earned an MFA from New York University in 1997. Stitt is currently working on the original musicals Snow Child and Ajax. Her other shows include The Danger Year, Big Red Sun and Samantha Spade: Ace Detective. Her choral piece with hope and virtue was featured on NPR. Her most recent orchestral piece, Waiting for Wings, co-written by her husband Jason Robert Brown, was commissioned by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra and premiered there in 2013.
2016 STUDENT MEDIA HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES
WENDELL (SONNY) RAWLS JR. Class of 1970
Rawls, whose celebrated career has included award-winning investigative reporter, New York Times bureau chief, television screenwriter and professor, was born near Goodlettsville, Tennessee, and grew up in Chattanooga. He enrolled at Vanderbilt in 1959 and joined the Commodore yearbook staff two years later to assist then-editor John Hemphill. Rawls, who was very involved in intramural sports and Alpha Tau Omega fraternity, credits Hemphill with early influence on his career. "Hemphill impressed upon me the importance of correctly identifying scores of names in yearbook photos," Rawls said. "These might be the only remembrances of some of my classmates. I learned the importance of accuracy, something that stayed with me through the years."
Rawls took a break from college in 1964 but was employed as a university fundraiser in the Office of Alumni and Development. Rawls also served in the U.S. Army before returning to campus in 1966 to complete his degree. At that time, Rawls needed money to cover all of his college expenses.
Hemphill was working at The Tennessean as the Vanderbilt correspondent and encouraged Rawls to apply for a sports opening. Rawls became the tennis and bowling editor and wrote a series of investigative stories about the abuse of Tennessee Walking Horses. His series was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. All of this happened before Rawls, who majored in history while working full time for The Tennessean, received his bachelor of arts in 1970.
In 1972, Rawls became the first national correspondent for the Philadelphia Inquirer. He was a Pulitzer finalist in 1975 and then won the Pulitzer in 1977 for a series of articles that disclosed 21 murders and other illegal activities inside a hospital for the criminally insane in Pennsylvania. The disclosed atrocities resulted in 37 guards and hospital officials being indicted for illegal activities before the hospital was closed. Rawls later wrote a book called Cold Storage based on that investigation.
Rawls joined The New York Times in 1977 and worked in both Washington, D.C., and Atlanta, where he became the Times' Southern bureau chief. In 1986, he moved to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution to direct its news operation. In the next two years, the staff won two Pulitzer prizes and had seven finalists.
Rawls later became a screenwriter and producer for several movies and miniseries for television, including "A Woman Scorned: The Betty Broderick Story," "Her Final Fury: Betty Broderick, the Last Chapter," "In the Line of Duty: Ambush at Waco," and "Tonya and Nancy: The Inside Story."
In addition, he taught from 2000 to 2015 at Middle Tennessee State University, where he was named director of the Seigenthaler Chair of Excellence in First Amendment Studies. He also taught a Vanderbilt course on investigative reporting.
Rawls is married to Kathryn Stark Rawls, who earned a bachelor of arts from the College of Arts and Science and a master of arts from Peabody College. They have two children, a daughter and a son; and two granddaughters.
PAT NOLAN Class of 1973
Similar to Rawls, Nolan said that his student media experiences led him down the journalism path, although Nolan focused more on broadcasting. He is a lifelong Nashvillian who grew up in the Hillsboro Village neighborhood next to campus. In August 1969, he enrolled at Peabody College and began volunteering as a disc jockey and news announcer at WRVU, then located in the south tower of Neely Auditorium.
"WRVU was known back then as a 'carrier current station,' since the signal was broadcast via wires that went through the steam tunnels and out to the dorms," Nolan said. "There was a transmitter in each dorm that relayed the signal onto each floor. That worked in the smaller dorms but not so well in Carmichael Towers. If you drove by the towers and put your radio on 580, you could hear the signal for a block or two."
By December 1970, the Federal Communication Commission had approved an educational FM license for WRVU. After his sophomore year, Nolan transferred to Vanderbilt and continued to work at the radio station.
"Our news department would read the Vanderbilt Hustler and the Vanderbilt Register and call people connected to those stories for interviews," Nolan said. "We also recorded various campus lectures, such as an annual series by the late Oakley Ray, a much admired psychology professor. In addition, WRVU would carry any Vanderbilt baseball games not on WLAC, and I learned to 'think on my feet' during those broadcasts."
Nolan served on the student media's publications board his senior year. He also wrote a story for the 1973 Commodore about Nashville. Nolan earned his bachelor of arts in political science in May. The next month he was hired to report news for WPLN FM (Nashville Public Radio) under a Corporation for Public Broadcasting grant. He also did some stories for "All Things Considered."
Then on July 3 he anchored WDCN-TV's (now WNPT) first live coverage of a Metro Council meeting. "The Vanderbilt Urban Renewal Plan was up for a public hearing," "I was very familiar with the plan because I had covered it while at WRVU. That council meeting was the beginning of a 12-year career for me anchoring the Metro Council television broadcasts."
In 1975, Nolan was recruited to WTVF-TV (Nashville's CBS affiliate), where he covered Metro Government for 10 years. Nolan left the media for two years to be press secretary and executive assistant to former Nashville Mayor Richard Fulton. He then returned to WTVF as a political analyst and became director of public relations for Hart & Company, an advertising and public relations firm.
In 1991, he joined DVL Seigenthaler Public Relations, a Finn Partners Company, where he is now a senior vice president. Nolan also has an interview program, "Inside Politics" on the NewsChannel5 Network, and a weekly column, "Capitol View," for the WTVF website.
"I learned a lot during my WRVU days about gathering, writing and broadcasting stories," Nolan said. He noted that the best part of working at WRVU was meeting his future wife, Betty Lee Love Nolan. She earned a bachelor of arts in Spanish and fine arts. They have two daughters, a granddaughter and a grandson.
ANDREW MARANISS Class of 1992
One of the requirements for all first-year Vanderbilt students is the Commons Reading—a text that all students receive by mail and are expected to read over the summer prior to their first semester. The undergraduate Class of 2020 will read Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South (Vanderbilt University Press, December 2014) by Maraniss, who rounds out this year's group of student media honorees.
Maraniss was born in Madison, Wisconsin, and grew up primarily in Washington, D.C., but later moved to Austin, Texas, where his father (journalist and author David Maraniss), was the Southwest bureau chief for the Washington Post. "One day my dad was visiting my high school and noticed a poster advertising the Fred Russell-Grantland Rice Scholarship," Maraniss said. "That was life changing. I had been the sports editor for the Austin High Maroon and realized this would be a perfect scholarship for me."
Maraniss received the Russell-Rice scholarship in 1988. "I was grateful for the opportunity and privilege to get to know alumnus and legendary sports journalist Fred Russell," he said. "A couple of times each year, Mr. Russell would take the four scholarship recipients in school (one for each year) to the University Club, where we would learn about Vanderbilt leaders and iconic sports figures that Russell knew. I bonded with my university quickly and treasured my friendship with him."
Each year the previous recipient of the Russell-Rice scholarship would welcome the new awardee to campus and to student media. Dave Sheinin did this for Maraniss, who covered men's and women's soccer his first semester. Sheinin later wrote an article for Versus magazine on Perry Wallace.
"That was the first time I heard about Wallace," Maraniss said. "I was taking a black history class with Yollette Jones (now associate dean in the College of Arts and Science)," Maraniss said. "I asked her permission to write a class paper on Wallace. Thank goodness she agreed, and I tracked down Wallace, who was a law professor at the University of Baltimore. I also wrote several articles for The Hustler about his legacy."
Maraniss earned a bachelor of arts in history in 1992 and went to work for the Vanderbilt Athletics Department in media relations. He moved to Tampa, Florida, to work for the Tampa Bay (Devil) Rays team in its inaugural season. In 1999, he returned to Nashville and joined McNeely Pigott and Fox Public Relations. Meanwhile, his interest in race, sports and the story of Perry Wallace deepened. In 2006, he began writing the manuscript for Strong Inside, devoting many evenings and weekends to the project.
Strong Inside has been awarded the Lillian Smith Book Award and the lone Special Recognition honor at the 2015 RFK Book Awards. Meanwhile, Maraniss has left McNeely Pigott and Fox to focus on writing books. He is also contributing to an ESPN website called "The Undefeated."
"This career adjustment will allow me to focus on my two true loves, my family and writing," said Maraniss, who is married to Alison Williams Maraniss. They have two children, a daughter and son.
VANESSA B. BEASLEY Class of 1988
Beasley, dean of The Martha Rivers Ingram Commons and an associate professor of communication studies, grew up in Jacksonville, Florida, and came to Vanderbilt as a first-year student in 1984. She had been the editor of her student newspaper in high school, but wanted to explore different media in college. "I joined the news team at WRVU and added my name to the wait list to be a disc jockey," Beasley said. Like Nolan, she met her future spouse, Trey Beasley, at WRVU. "I was into REM, the Ramones and other bands coming out of the college scene," she said. "The radio station provided some extra space for me to be creative. I encourage our students 'to try different voices' while they have the opportunity."
Beasley served as secretary for the student media board her junior year. "I learned valuable lessons about managing volunteers for a nonprofit organization and conducting board meetings," she said.
Beasley earned her bachelor of arts in speech communication and theatre arts in 1988 and went on to the University of Texas, where she received a doctorate in speech communication. She taught at Texas A&M University, Southern Methodist University and the University of Georgia before coming "home" to Vanderbilt's Department of Communication Studies in 2007.
Media was an important part of her life in college and that has continued in her research, with a focus on race, gender and diversity in U.S. political rhetoric. She is the author of Who Belongs in America? Presidents, Rhetoric and Immigration and You, the People: American National Identity in Presidential Rhetoric: 1885-2000.
One of the courses she teaches, "Mass Media and Politics," looks at the business of media, which she said is especially appropriate this election cycle. In 2015, she led a new Maymester course that she created in partnership with Queen's University, Belfast, to explore the comparative, transnational understanding of the civil rights movements in the southern United States and in Belfast in the 1950s and 60s.
Also in 2015, Beasley was named dean of the Ingram Commons, where she serves as the academic leader, mentor and senior administrator of the first-year experience at Vanderbilt. "I didn't feel like I fit in when I arrived here as a student, so I think it's really important that our exceptionally talented faculty and staff across campus strive to meet students 'where they are' when they in the transition from high school to college," Beasley said. "That's why I am so committed to helping every incoming student find his or her place on our campus."
Beasley is joined in the Dean's Residence on campus by her husband, Trey, who is assistant vice chancellor for treasury and university treasurer, and their two sons.
2017 STUDENT MEDIA HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES
JOHN HAILE Class of 1967
Haile, who earned a bachelor of arts in 1967, grew up in Cleveland, Tennessee. As a freshman, he joined WRVU, where his hometown friend Warren Corbett was business manager and a mentor. The radio station was on a couple of floors of Neely Auditorium's south tower. Haile served as station manager his junior and senior years.
"I learned to surround myself with people passionate about their jobs and trust them to do their work," said Haile, who also served on the VSC board. "We changed the format—bringing in Top 40 programming—and doing remote broadcasts to bring more attention to the station." In 1966, Haile, who had worked for his local newspaper in high school, also became campus correspondent for The Tennessean.
Haile majored in political science. "Given all my other responsibilities, I was not the best student," he said. "Sometimes I didn't make it to class. However, beloved professors like political scientists Bob Birkby and J. Leiper Freeman helped me work through everything."
Thanks to a flier he saw on the WRVU bulletin board, Haile went to Boston University for graduate school, where he earned a master of science in communication. Haile also continued working at The Tennessean, as a state and national political reporter. "I can’t think of a more dedicated group of journalists to be around during a turbulent and exciting political era, with legendary editor John Seigenthaler as our anchor," Haile said. "The connections I made in Nashville have stayed with me."
Not long after completing a journalism fellowship at Stanford University, Haile moved to the Orlando Sentinel, where he became editor in 1985. Haile was among the first to recognize that changing the culture of the newsroom was key to adapting traditional print to new media. As a new media pioneer, he built one of the world's first fully-integrated multimedia newsrooms with print, the Internet, and a 24-hour cable news channel all operating from a central news desk. The paper earned three Pulitzer Prizes under his leadership.
At age 55, Haile chose to step away from daily leadership of a newspaper to devote what he called “a second half” to public service. He has served on a number of health care, environmental and arts boards. He lives in the Denver area, where he also “works at” his pastel and oil painting.
ZHUBIN PARANG Class of 2003
Parang grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee, where his father is a professor and administrator at the University of Tennessee. "In considering colleges, I was glad to stay a little closer to home at a Southeastern Conference school that excels in academics and campus life," he said.
An early influence on his career was the opportunity to do improvisational comedy in high school. "I thrived on the spontaneity and excitement of the performances," Parang said. Arriving at Vanderbilt in 1999, he joined "Tongue 'N Cheek," the university's then-fledgling improv organization, where he made some of his best friends.
Parang also wrote for The Hustler and Orbis, the latter of which began in 2001 as a bi-weekly publication for liberal and progressive views. The writers strived to foster an environment more open to the university's increasing diversity. Parang wrote mostly opinion and humorous pieces.
He earned a bachelor of arts in 2003, with a double major in political science and sociology. Parang had begun shifting his focus from improv and comedy writing to what he thought would be more marketable—a law degree. Parang enrolled at Georgetown University Law Center but also became a house player at the Washington Improv Theatre.
While Parang earned his law degree and began practicing at a New York City firm, he soon realized that he would be happier, and ultimately, more successful as a writer and comedian. He left the law in 2010 and within a year he was a writer for "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart." In 2015, he was promoted to head writer for "The Daily Show with Trevor Noah."
Parang is among the "Daily Show" writers whose work has been recognized twice with an Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series. His writing has been featured in McSweeney's, The Onion, and The Morning News.
Parang noted that during the Trump presidency, the show scripts have tended to go through more re-writes up to the start of each show. "Constant breaking news is the wonderful blessing and the terrible curse of President Trump,” he said. Parang emphasized that the writers' job is to make jokes about topical events. "'The Daily Show' is news-satire—not real news—so we don’t expect or want viewers to use our show as a news source," he said.
He recommends improv for those who want to hone their skills of learning to write creatively under a tight deadline. "If you are interested in becoming a comedian, try to put yourself up on stage for live performances. And follow your passion—as much as possible—for whatever path you choose," Parang said.
WALTER BROWN POTTER JR. Class of 1972
Potter is a third-generation newspaper journalist. His grandfather was in the newspaper business in Southside, Virginia. His father operated the Star-Exponent in Culpeper, Virginia, where Potter grew up. At about age 10, he began stacking papers off the press and delivering papers.
Potter continued at his family's paper, spending several summers as a reporter and copy editor in high school and college. Potter started at Washington and Lee University in 1968, but transferred to Vanderbilt his junior year. He signed up as a general assignment reporter for The Hustler. The managing editor was Clay Harris, a 2012 Student Media Hall of Fame inductee. "Clay asked me the next spring to become sports editor, and I was editing the copy of future Hall of Fame inductees Skip Bayless and Terry Eastland," Potter said.
Potter majored in history and minored in philosophy. One of his favorite professors was John Compton, who taught "History of Philosophy." Potter enjoyed Compton's teaching so much that after earning course credit, he audited the class.
Potter earned a bachelor of arts in 1972 and continued in journalism at the Star-Exponent and the Virginian Pilot. He also went to journalism school at the University of Missouri, earning his master's in 1981.
Potter then became a reporter at the Nashville Banner, where he remembers covering one of city's biggest business stories—the sale of NLT Corporation, which owned the Grand Ole Opry and WSM Radio—to American General. "Nashville was definitely one of the newsiest cities in which I've ever worked," he said. He also was a reporter and editor at the Kansas City Times before taking over the Independent-Messenger, a paper his grandfather had helped found in Emporia, Virginia.
Potter's father had owned a small chain of newspapers, including two dailies at one point. After he died, Potter wished to devote his time and resources to helping community newspapers remain sustainable during an increasingly challenging financial environment.
With the help of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, Potter created the Walter B. Potter Fund for Innovation in Local Journalism. "The Potter Fund sponsors a yearly conference that brings in a variety of experts to help community newspapers not only survive, but also thrive in the digital age," he said.
Although Potter had to resign from being The Hustler sports editor to catch up on academics, he remains extremely grateful for his time in student media. "I spent 20 years in small towns before coming to Vanderbilt," he said. "The university really opened me up to the wider world through my classes and Hustler friends. Just as at Mizzou, it was the people and the ideas that made Vanderbilt important to me."
CARYL PRIVETT Class of 1970
Privett grew up in Birmingham and worked for her high school newspaper and also the Birmingham News the summer before college. She enrolled at Vanderbilt in 1966 and signed up to work for The Hustler, then located on the third floor of Alumni Hall. "The late '60s was an incredible time to be a college journalist, with the growth of the civil rights movement, increasing opposition to the Vietnam War, and the women's movement still in its early stages," Privett said.
Privett said that the most fun she probably had at The Hustler was the fall of her junior year, when Chuck Offenburger, a 2014 inductee into the Student Media Hall of Fame, was editor-in-chief. "I was the managing editor, and my job was to be the organizing influence to make our deadlines," she said. Privett also worked as the paper's copy editor before graduating in 1970.
She had majored in political science and has fond memories of staying in touch with Chancellor Heard after college. "Chancellor Heard set a very special tone for Vanderbilt," she said. "He had a sense of authority without being authoritarian. I wish that I had saved the beautiful letter that he wrote to me about why he felt it was important to serve on higher education initiatives for the Nixon administration."
Another one of Privett's vivid memories was walking through the Branscomb Lobby with her raincoat over her pants—even on a sunny day. "At that time, women had to follow rules about proper attire that did not apply to men, like wearing a coat over slacks," she said. "I remember this rule impacted my wardrobe when I was leaving for a date on a motorcycle."
After graduation, Privett went to New York University Law School, where she earned her J.D. She passed the Alabama bar and became a civil rights attorney. After practicing with firms in Mobile and Birmingham, she joined the office of the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama. She lobbied for the Equal Rights Amendment and joined the Alabama Women's Political Caucus. She also became a member of the Junior League of Birmingham, where she co-chaired a project to raise awareness of domestic violence.
In 1995, she was appointed the first female U.S. Attorney in Alabama. Two years later she went into private practice, focusing on alternative dispute resolution. In 2003, she became a circuit judge for the 10th Judicial Circuit of Alabama. She presided over civil cases concerning issues ranging from asbestos and bingo to a sales tax that paid for $1 billion in new school construction.
Privett retired from the bench in 2015. She continues to live in Birmingham, devoting more time to hobbies that include reading, needlepoint, photography and travel, including occasional trips to watch Vanderbilt baseball.
ELAINE SHANNON Class of 1968
Shannon was born in Gainesville, Georgia, and worked for her hometown newspaper during high school. She enrolled at Vanderbilt in 1964, when issues like the Vietnam War, civil rights, drugs and poverty were beginning to generate intense debate on college campuses. "Vanderbilt had a great deal of academic freedom, one of the reasons I chose this university," Shannon said.
She was a student during the first years of the Impact Symposium, a speakers series designed to bring more intellectually stimulating programming to campus. "I was proud of then-Chancellor Alexander Heard for standing firm on the principle of 'open forum' when many of those connected to Vanderbilt and in the community opposed letting Stokely Carmichael speak in 1967," she said.
Shannon majored in English and minored in French and philosophy. "The department provided great support and freedom for my writing," she said. "English Professors Vereen Bell and Harold Weatherby and Philosophy's Charles Scott were among my mentors."
She began writing for The Hustler. One of her favorite articles featured the new computer center in the round building of Stevenson Center. "Journalists always need to be embracing the future," she said. "I have always had to convince technical people of the importance of explaining in plain English what they are doing."
Shannon started working for The Tennessean her senior year, and continued there after earning a bachelor of arts in 1968. Like Haile, she had strong praise for the leadership and mentorship of Seigenthaler. "In those days at The Tennessean, no one wanted the title of investigative reporter," she said. "That would have been redundant. We were all expected to ask the uncomfortable questions."
Shannon wrote about civil rights, police violence and abuses in the prison system. In 1970, she became The Tennessean's Washington, D.C., correspondent, where she covered Watergate, presidential campaigns and Tennessee political leaders who included Howard Baker and Albert Gore Sr.
Four years later Shannon won a Nieman Fellowship to Harvard University. She then worked at Newsday, Newsweek and Time Magazine, where she focused on national security and criminal justice issues, such as international arms trafficking, drug trafficking and money laundering, organized crime, terrorism and espionage.
Three of Shannon's books have been published, including Desperadoes: Latin Drug Lords, U.S. Lawmen, and the War America Can't Win. Desperadoes, a New York Times best-seller, served as the basis for the Emmy-winning miniseries "Drug Wars: The Camarena Story," broadcast on NBC in 1990. A second Emmy-nominated miniseries based on the book ran in 1992.
Shannon lives in Washington, D.C., where she is a contributing editor for Cipher Brief, an online news organization devoted to national security issues. In addition, she is working on a new book about the first transnational organized crime leader of the Innovation Age.
2018 STUDENT MEDIA HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES
BRUCE HEYMAN Class of 1979, 1980
Heyman grew up in Dayton, Ohio, skipping his senior year of high school and enrolling at Vanderbilt in 1975. He and some of his suitemates signed up to work at WRVU, which was settling into its new home in Sarratt Student Center.
“I had friends who were disc jockeys with their own shows; I was part of the news team—sorting and selecting wire copy, making edits and broadcasting the reports during my air shift,” Heyman said. “I especially enjoyed researching and broadcasting the really bizarre sports stories my listeners would find intriguing.”
The skills he learned at WRVU, such as communicating in front of a microphone, proved tremendously helpful many years later when he became U.S. ambassador to Canada.
“I tell students that college should be all about exploring new fields and trying activities that are outside of your comfort zone,” Heyman said. “Broadcasting news and sports on WRVU to the local community was experiential learning at its best.”
Heyman completed a double major in business and economics, earning a Bachelor of Arts in 1979. That spring he enrolled at the Owen Graduate School of Management, where he earned his Master of Business Administration in 1980. He then began working in Chicago as an investment banker for Goldman Sachs, where he eventually became managing director of private wealth management.
In September 2013, President Barack Obama nominated Heyman to be U.S. ambassador to Canada, and he was confirmed by the Senate the next March.
“My introduction to the Canadian citizens was through a national radio tour—in which I was connected to local broadcasters on a city-by-city basis,” Heyman said. “My wife, Vicki, whom I met while we were MBA students at Owen, did the interviews with me. This was actually my first time back on the radio since my WRVU days. I certainly was glad to have had that experience on live radio.”
Heyman served as ambassador until January 2017. He recently established an office focused on the Canada-U.S. relationship, and serves on an advisory board of the Canada Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. He’s also appearing frequently on national and international news programs in his role as a freelance advocate for U.S.-Canadian relations. “I am taking my title of ‘former ambassador’ very seriously as I speak out for our nation’s continued connectivity with neighboring Canada,” Heyman said.
JOHN HINDLE Class of 1968, 1981
Hindle, a Rhode Island native, arrived on campus just a few months after McCord graduated in 1964. He joined the editorial staff of Spectrum, a magazine created in the early 1960s for Vanderbilt students to publish their honors work. “The publication had expanded to include a larger focus on creative writing—poetry, short stories and the like,” Hindle said. “Serving on the editorial staff taught me how to evaluate writing and research as well as develop skills in editing and production. I also learned the value of peer review.” Vereen Bell and Paul Elledge, who are both professors of English, emeriti, were among his favorite mentors.
Hindle, who majored in English and fine arts, received his Bachelor of Arts in 1968. After serving as an army officer for four years, he went to graduate school—returning to campus to earn his doctorate in English 1981. During that time, Hindle and Larry Stein, a fellow graduate student, spent six weeks co-writing the book Elvis: The Army years 1958-1960, published under the pseudonym Nick Corvino. “It’s followed me all my career,” he says, “for better or worse!”
Hindle worked at Peabody College as director of development before accepting a marketing position with Northern Telecom. He relocated with his family to London, England. In 2002, he accepted appointment as an adjunct faculty member in Human and Organizational Development, where he taught a weekly seminar for HOD majors working in London to fulfill their semester-long internship requirement. “It was rewarding to guide students, many of whom had never been outside of the United States, in their exposure to the world of work.”
He also started the Greater London Vanderbilt Club, the first Vanderbilt alumni chapter outside of the United States, working to build Vanderbilt’s international presence and increase alumni engagement.
Hindle is a former director and president of the Vanderbilt Alumni Association and served a four-year term on the Vanderbilt Board of Trust.
He remains very engaged with the Vanderbilt community, including Student Media. Most recently, he coached a group of students in designing and building a marketing plan for an international fashion show they were organizing. “I always encourage young people to get involved with extracurricular projects that teach skills for future employment.”
SCOTT HUBBARD Class of 1970
Hubbard, who grew up in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, enjoyed extemporaneous speaking and debate competitions in high school. “When I arrived on campus in 1966, working at WRVU seemed like a natural extension of my deep interest in public speaking,” Hubbard said.
Hubbard remembers a tiny WRVU studio on an upper floor of Neely Auditorium. The news staff was small and he practiced his broadcast voice. “I tried to sound authoritative and not ramble while reading the short news summaries that we pulled together from wire copy,” he said.
One of his most memorable interviews was with Impact speaker Stokely Carmichael. “I guess it was an impromptu Q&A as I had to hustle to talk with him during a walk across campus,” Hubbard said. He also played guitar in a jazz group that did a benefit in honor of poet and activist Allen Ginsberg, who was also part of Impact.
Hubbard completed a double major in physics and astronomy. The late professor Douglas Hall, who had just joined the department, was his adviser. Hubbard earned his Bachelor of Science in 1970 but stayed in Nashville—working as a research assistant in Physics and Astronomy while playing music at night in clubs like Red Dog Saloon and Black Diamond Lounge.
In 1973, Hubbard moved to San Francisco and went to graduate school at the University of California at Berkeley. He spent 20 years at NASA, eventually serving as director of its Ames Research Center. He also served as NASA’s first Mars program director and restructured the program successfully in the wake of mission failures. He is the author of Exploring Mars: Chronicles from a Decade of Discovery. Hubbard is a recipient of NASA’s highest honor, the Distinguished Service Medal.
In 2007 Hubbard became an adjunct professor of aeronautics and astronautics at Stanford University. He is semi-retired now, but remains engaged in several projects, including chairing the SpaceX Commercial Crew Safety Advisory Panel.
Hubbard still credits his experience at WRVU with helping him hone his organizational and communication skills—which have been vital throughout his career. “Particularly when I was at the higher levels of NASA, I learned that it’s extremely important to be able to explain to a variety of audiences what you want to accomplish,” he said.
PAUL KURTZ Class of 1968, 1972
“The Hustler was like a home away from home,” said Kurtz, who was a little homesick when he came to campus in 1964 from Spring Valley, New York. During high school, Kurtz worked summers for a Rockland County newspaper. He covered sports all four years at Vanderbilt and was sports editor his junior and senior years.
“I didn’t ‘live’ at The Hustler, like some of my friends, but my freshman dorm—Vanderbilt Hall—was only about 200 yards away from the office on the third floor of Memorial Hall,” Kurtz said. “I would go the printer off campus some nights to watch the process of setting and proofing the copy.” He was also active in Alpha Epsilon Pi social fraternity and was elected to several offices, including president.
One of his most vivid memories was the late Perry Wallace breaking the color barrier as the first African American basketball player in the Southeastern Conference.
The early days of the Impact Symposium, on which Kurtz served on the board of directors, also made a huge impression on him. Speakers while Kurtz was a student included Stokely Carmichael, Martin Luther King Jr., Alexander Kerensky and Barry Goldwater.
“My advice to student journalists is to be very aware of your surroundings because you can miss something newsworthy if you’re not looking carefully,” Kurtz said. “Also, avoid specializing in just one area if you want to increase your marketability after graduation.”
Kurtz, who majored in political science, after considering graduate school in journalism, chose to attend law school in 1969. He received his Bachelor of Arts in 1968 and his Juris Doctorate (also from Vanderbilt) in 1972.
After earning a Master of Laws at Harvard, Kurtz joined the law faculty at the University of Georgia in 1975, where he specialized in criminal law and family law. A recipient of the University of Georgia President’s Medal for distinguished service in academic work and community service, Kurtz is now an emeritus professor and represents Georgia as a commissioner on Uniform State Laws and has chaired a number of accreditation visits of law schools for the American Bar Association.
RICHARD McCORD Class of 1964
McCord, who grew up in a suburb of Atlanta, was editor of The Vanderbilt Hustler during a pivotal period of the civil rights movement. He enrolled at Vanderbilt in 1960, four years before the first eight African American undergraduate students were admitted.
McCord remembers writing about racial issues on campus, including a female student who was criticized by the administration for dating a black man from another university. “One of the deans called her parents to put pressure on her to end the relationship,” McCord said. “I thought this was a significant news story, although the administration didn’t like me publishing it.”
McCord also wrote about Congressman John Lewis, who represents Georgia’s Fifth District. During the ’60s, Lewis was a Fisk University student activist organizing sit-ins at segregated lunch counters and risking his life as a Freedom Rider.
McCord majored in English in the College of Arts and Science and earned his Bachelor of Arts in 1964. Life after college for McCord began in the military, where he was on active duty in the Air Force during the escalation of the Vietnam War.
In 1967, McCord started his journalism career at Newsday in New York before heading west. He worked for the Santa Fe New Mexican and founded the Santa Fe Reporter, where he was the longtime editor and publisher. The weekly newspaper received more than 200 awards for excellence, including the top prize by Investigative Reporters and Editors for an in-depth examination of the state’s mental hospital.
McCord is the author of four books, which include The Chain Gang: One Newspaper Versus the Gannett Empire, a finalist for the National Book Award. The Chain Gang, first published in 1996, was propelled by a call that McCord received from his friend and colleague Frank Wood, who was waging a fierce fight against a corporate take-over of the Green Bay News Chronicle. McCord has also written extensively about his adopted hometown, where he has been named a Santa Fe Living Treasure.
MARY MARGARET OLIVER Class of 1969
Oliver grew up in DeKalb County, Georgia, and went to Vanderbilt in the fall of 1966. She pledged Kappa Delta sorority, which encouraged her to become involved in extracurricular activities like The Hustler, where she was a news reporter. She was also involved in the start-up phase of Versus.
“Vanderbilt was not considered an activist school during the ’60s, but writing for the paper brought me closer to the political turbulence across the nation, especially with regards to civil rights and the Vietnam War,” Oliver said. “I remember Robert Kennedy speaking at Impact, and the day that Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis.”
Oliver majored in English and was on track for teacher certification, but decided to forgo a semester of student teaching. She took classes at Georgia State one summer while working as a life guard, earning her Bachelor of Arts in three years.
“Based on my interest in media and experience with student publications, I took an editorial position with an Atlanta-based magazine called Southern Engineer and Electrical South,” Oliver said. “I also enrolled in Emory University’s evening law division.”
Oliver later became a full-time law student at Emory, earning her Juris Doctorate in 1972. She taught at Boston College Law School before entering private practice in Decatur, Georgia.
Oliver was elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1987, serving five years before moving to the George State Senate, where she was appointed chair of the Judiciary Committee. This marked the first time in 40 years a woman had been named chair of a standing senate committee. Oliver served three terms before running statewide for lieutenant governor. She then took a short break from politics, practicing law and teaching at the Barton Center for Child Advocacy at Emory University.
In 2003, she rejoined the Georgia House, where she continues to represent the 82nd District and chairs the Judiciary Committee. Georgia’s anti-stalking law and legislation to protect neighborhood activists from intimidation are among her many legislative accomplishments.
2019 STUDENT MEDIA HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES
GARY O. COHEN Class of 1959
Cohen wrote for The Vanderbilt Hustler all four of his undergraduate years and served as editor-in-chief his senior year, writing what he describes as “crusading editorials” that criticized the university administration for actions taken without student input. He majored in economics and business administration, graduating magna cum laude in 1959. He then served in the Air Force and earned his law degree from Harvard Law School. Cohen went to work at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, where he became assistant chief counsel of the Division of Investment Management. He was there when the U.S. Supreme Court held that variable annuities were subject to SEC regulation, and he participated in the development of the SEC’s regulatory regime during his five years on the staff.
MICHELLE COTTLE Class of 1992
Cottle enrolled at Vanderbilt in 1988 but didn’t start writing for The Vanderbilt Hustler until her sophomore year. “I absolutely loved writing the column for three years, and I think the experience helps me keep my perspective on all the divisiveness and polarization inside the Beltway these days,” she said. Cottle majored in English and minored in European studies. After graduation and a fellowship with Mother Jones magazine, she became editor of the Washington Monthly. She also worked at the New Republic as a senior editor and Newsweek and Daily Beast as a Washington correspondent. She was a senior writer at the National Journal and a contributing editor at The Atlantic before being named lead editorial writer for national politics at The New York Times in 2018.
BILL LIVINGSTON Class of 1970
Livingston was a Grantland Rice Scholar when he enrolled in 1966. He served as sports editor at The Vanderbilt Hustler and especially enjoyed writing columns, including some political-themed ones. He majored in English and graduated cum laude in 1970. Livingston began his career at the Dallas Morning News and then worked for the Philadelphia Inquirer for 10 years before becoming senior sports columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer in 1984. He spent 34 years there and will be inducted into the Cleveland Press Club Hall of Fame in November 2019. The Pulitzer Prize-nominated writer has covered the Olympics, Super Bowl, World Series, NCAA Final Four, and all major college bowl games. His most recent book is George Steinbrenner’s Pipe Dream: The ABL Champion Cleveland Pipers.
DAVID RAPP Class of 1973
Rapp came to Vanderbilt in 1969 as a Grantland Rice Scholar. At The Vanderbilt Hustler, he wrote both news and sports stories before serving as the arts and entertainment editor. He devised his own major—Theory of Communications. After graduation in 1973, he was briefly a poet and bartender before working for the Memphis Press-Scimitar, Cincinnati Post and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He moved to D.C. in 1985, starting a nearly quarter-century career at Congressional Quarterly, which produces a number of high-profile publications about Congress. Since 2014, he has worked independently as a journalist and publishing consultant. His book, Tinker to Evers to Chance: The Chicago Cubs and the Dawn of Modern America was published by University of Chicago Press in 2018.
DANIEL BERNARD ROUMAIN Class of 1993
Roumain, widely known by the moniker DBR, enrolled at Vanderbilt in 1989. He covered arts and entertainment stories for The Vanderbilt Hustler and an arts magazine within the paper called Ripple. After receiving his bachelor of music in 1993, he earned his doctorate at the University of Michigan. Roumain has won an Emmy for outstanding musical composition for his collaborations with ESPN; created works for Carnegie Hall, Boston Pops and Library of Congress; and led the creation of the chamber opera “We Shall Not Be Moved,” which was cited by The New York Times as one of the best classical musical performances of 2017. He has collaborated with Lady Gaga, DJ Spooky and Philip Glass, among others. Roumain, who has been a visiting composition professor at the Blair School, teaches at Arizona State University.
2020 STUDENT MEDIA HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES
EUGENE H. VAUGHAN
Class of 1955
Serving as The Vanderbilt Hustler student newspaper sports editor helped Eugene H. Vaughan develop the entrepreneurial and leadership skills to build a regional investment management firm, chair a global association of investment professionals and improve the quality of life in Houston, Texas.
Vaughan who grew up in Brownsville, Tennessee, enrolled at Vanderbilt on a full Naval ROTC scholarship in 1951. As a rising junior, he took on the multiple duties of sports editor, writing about them in a 2018 alumni newsletter column. “The responsibilities of sports editor loomed large, writing three columns a week and organizing coverage of all sports, both varsity and intramural,” he said. “The IM League was complex, and in a way at that time, more talent-laden than the varsity teams.” Vaughan recruited many students, including former high school sports writers, to cover “the seemingly endless regular season and playoff games.”
He reached out to fellow student Sheldon Hackney, a future chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, for assistance on the columns.
Vaughan’s other campus activities included running varsity track and serving as the first president of what became known as Interhall.
Vaughan wrote his final Hustler column in May 1955. One of the absolute highlights of his time as sports editor was his friendship with Fred Russell, a nationally prominent sports reporter who worked for the Nashville Banner. Russell offered Vaughan a job after graduation, but the Navy had other plans for him.
After earning his MBA from Harvard Business School and serving three years on a Navy destroyer, Vaughan became an investment analyst with Putnam Management Company in Boston. In 1970, he founded Vaughan Nelson Investment Management in Houston. A decade later, with his urging as a leader in the financial-analyst industry, two professional organizations merged to create CFA Institute, which counts more than 170,000 members globally.
Vaughan stepped down as CEO of his investment management firm in 2000 to focus on his passions of community service and education. He immersed himself in the spirit, civic and business life of Houston, founding the Center for Houston’s Future, a major generator of civic leaders and strategic planning in the Houston region.
Vaughan was a member of the Vanderbilt University Board of Trust from 1972 until 2004, when he became an emeritus trustee. He notes that he met his wife, Susan, at the wedding of his Vanderbilt roommate, and his daughter, Margaret, BA’88 and MBA’92, is a Double ‘Dore.
“Including the inspiration and career-shaping of my Hustler sports editorship, everything I cherish most in my life has come directly or indirectly from Vanderbilt. The Hustler taught me that people build meaning into their lives by commitment. One must commit—and stand by their commitments.”
Class of 1975
John Bloom, often known as his alter-ego Joe Bob Briggs, grew up in West Texas and attended high school in Little Rock, Arkansas. By age 13, Bloom was a sportswriter at the Arkansas Democrat. In his senior year, he sent some clippings to Vanderbilt for the Grantland Rice scholarship and was astounded to learn he had been selected.
“When I arrived at Vanderbilt, I thought I was a hot shot,” Bloom said. “The very tough professors, as they say in Appalachia, ‘taught me different.’”
At Vanderbilt, Bloom majored in English, taking nearly every class in the English Department, where the professors instilled in him an objectivity and appreciation for the language that translated well to his later career in journalism. “It was a priceless education,” he said.
As a freshman, he joined The Hustler staff. Many of the journalists he met, especially editor Clay Harris (a 2012 Hall of Fame inductee), expanded his views as to what was possible. He said the staff had a common desire to change the world. Bloom later served as sports editor and managing editor.
He entered the journalism field a dedicated optimist about what objective investigative reporting can do. “I’ve never lost that fire, despite many of my colleagues deciding that objectivity is passé,” he said.
He went on to become a satirist, investigative reporter, late-night movie host and actor who has written nine books, published articles in more than a hundred publications, appeared in several films, and been one of the leading champions of independent film in a newspaper column that was syndicated by The New York Times News Service and several other outlets for three decades.
Bloom’s books include Evidence of Love (1984), named by Time magazine as one of the best true-crime classics in history. More recently, his satellite thriller, Eccentric Orbits: The Iridium Story, was named one of the top five business books of 2016 by The Wall Street Journal.
A three-time finalist for the National Magazine Award and a Pulitzer Prize nominee, Bloom also has appeared in several movies, including Casino, Face/Off and Great Balls of Fire, and was a special commentator for The Daily Show for two years.
As Bloom’s alter-ego Joe Bob Briggs, his wisecracking take on B movies was featured in two long-running late-night television shows—Joe Bob’s Drive-In Theater on The Movie Channel and MonsterVision on TNT. That tradition continues with his latest series, The Last Drive-In, featured on AMC’s Shudder streaming platform. Over the course of his movie-hosting career, Bloom has executive-produced 20,000 hours of television and become the leading authority on exploitation and genre films.
KATHLEEN SMITH BARRY
Class of 1980
Kathleen Smith Barry, who goes by “Kats,” knew by fifth grade that she wanted to be a photographer. A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, she moved to Nashville when she was 10. One of her most influential teachers was Louise LeQuire, a prominent Nashville artist and art writer.
Barry went to Rhodes College before transferring to Vanderbilt for her junior year. “I found a welcoming home in the Sarratt darkroom while taking photos for The Hustler, Versus and the Commodore yearbook,” she said.
Her assignments included Vanderbilt concerts by iconic jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and acoustic guitarist Leo Kottke and many sporting events.
Barry has fond memories of Hustler social gatherings in which the entire staff would crowd into the newsroom at Sarratt. “I remember Alex Heard, who was the editor my senior year (a 2010 Hall of Fame inductee), doing a popular new wave dance called the Pogo,” she said.
Barry broke new ground at the Nashville Banner, which was the city’s afternoon newspaper, during the summers of 1978 and 79. She was Banner’s first woman photographer and first photography intern.
She earned a bachelor of arts in English in 1980 and worked several jobs her first three years out of school, including art gallery manager and television chyron operator. She also created specialty covers and inside full pages for Billboard magazine, including a concert photo of Bruce Springsteen.
Barry joined The Tennessean staff in 1983, working under legendary editor and publisher John Seigenthaler. “During the late 80s and 90s, I was ‘on loan’ for some USA Today projects, photographing Fidel Castro in Cuba, President Ronald Reagan in the Oval Office, Gov. Bill Clinton in Little Rock and many others,” she said. Her photos from the 1991 Soviet coup d'état attempt in Moscow were exhibited at the Russian Tea Room in New York City.
In the mid-90s she became a syndicated food photographer for United Features Syndicate, providing images for their Desperation Dinners column. “My family would eat the results after I made the recipe, styled the food and provided the finished photo.”
Barry, who is married to Mark G.G. Barry, MBA’79, has worked for the United Methodist Communications News Service the past decade. “My photo assignments have ranged from covering bishops visiting the San Diego-Tijuana border fence to teaching photography in Zambia,” she said. “I manage the all-digital United Methodist media library, build web content and work with a team of skilled journalists in a news environment that feels much like my glory days at The Tennessean.”
Class of 1993
Mark Bechtel grew up in suburban Cleveland and then Huntsville, Alabama. When he arrived at Vanderbilt in 1989, he met hallmate Mitch Light (‘93). Light had won the Fred Russell-Grantland Rice Sportswriting Scholarship and suggested they join The Hustler. Bechtel’s first assignment was covering the rugby team, and he recalls writing a couple of women’s basketball stories next.
“The Hustler seemed pretty cool,” Bechtel said. “It was an impressive group. I always sort of liked sports but had never done any journalism.”
Bechtel majored in economics and political science. “I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I figured ‘business,’ whatever that means,” Bechtel said. “The Hustler was something I wasn’t bad at and really enjoyed.”
He tried his hand at photojournalism. The photo editor at the time, Jay Graves (’93), loaned him a camera and film and showed him how to use the equipment. Bechtel traveled to a football game at Ole Miss, where Vanderbilt won on a last-second field goal. Bechtel’s photograph of that moment was picked up by the Nashville Banner and ran on its front page.
“I never took a good photo again, so I went back to writing,” Bechtel said. Years later, at Sports Illustrated, he said he enjoyed taunting the professional photographers about how “easy” sports photojournalism is.
At The Hustler, Bechtel served as editor of the Perspectives section, where Michelle Cottle (a 2019 Hall of Fame inductee) was a star columnist. He also worked as a layout designer for The Vanderbilt Review literary and arts journal.
Bechtel’s jobs after college included working in Vanderbilt’s sports information department. Meanwhile, former Hustler sports editor Dana Gelin (’90) was a reporter at SI in New York. In 1995, Gelin helped get him in the door with a fact-checking job. Bechtel has been a fixture at SI ever since.
In his 25 years at the magazine, Bechtel has covered Super Bowls, World Series, NBA finals, Olympics, World Cups and—his favorite—the 2003 North Dakota state curling championship. As the magazine’s NBA editor, Bechtel served as editor for senior writer Lee Jenkins (a 2012 Hall of Fame inductee) for nearly a decade.
Bechtel led Sports Illustrated Kids magazine as managing editor and edited SI’s Scorecard section. He also helped develop and launch SI Kids’ Rookie Books series for early readers. Bechtel is the author of He Crashed Me So I Crashed Him Back (2010), the wild, true story of the birth of modern stock-car racing. Now serving as deputy editor at SI, he lives in San Francisco with his wife and two daughters.
Class of 1998
Patrick Taylor credits his 12 continuous years of working in student media with helping launch his career at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Aviation and Missile Center in Huntsville, Alabama.
Taylor, a Triple ’Dore who was raised in White House, Tennessee, was the unofficial engineer for Vanderbilt Television during its early days in the Lupton Hall basement of Branscomb Quadrangle.
“Even in elementary school, I was fascinated with both the creative and technical aspects of video, so I quickly headed down the stairs from my Branscomb dorm room to the VTV studio,” Taylor said. “In 1994, everything was on tape with a lot of cutting and splicing. I embraced the role of ‘let’s figure out how to do it’ with everything from recording to mixing and then editing the final product.”
One of Taylor’s favorite memories was broadcasting Vanderbilt basketball games live from Memorial Gym. After he secured permission from Vanderbilt Athletics to broadcast games not being carried by the national networks, Taylor and his VTV colleagues set up the first fiber optic link from Branscomb to the gym.
During Taylor’s sophomore year, he hosted a WRVU show called TV Time with Patrick, spotlighting songs from popular television programs and movies, show tunes and more. While that program went on hiatus, he returned to WRVU with a Friday night talk show on social issues and other timely topics. Taylor also served on the VSC board of directors.
Taylor stayed focused on electrical engineering while earning a bachelor of engineering in 1998, master of science in 2003 and doctorate in 2006. “My introduction to the Aviation and Missile Center began with a request from my engineering department to help some undergraduate students with their senior project,” Taylor said. “They needed technical assistance with a video library on missile and rocket testing they were compiling for the Aviation and Missile Center. I was introduced to some of the folks at the center and accepted a position there after graduation.”
Taylor serves as head of the electrical engineering group for the missile propulsion branch and the power technology lead for the entire center. He also is the de facto video producer for many of the center’s projects, including community outreach initiatives for Huntsville city schools. And he is proud to be the second of three brothers to graduate from the School of Engineering, with Travis Taylor earning his bachelor of engineering in 1998 and Shawn Taylor following in both of their footsteps in 2005.
Taylor maintained an entrepreneurial spirit throughout his days with student media and transferred the skills he learned there to his engineering career. “I encourage young people to be open to educational experiences not directly related to their majors because these ventures often shape their career paths in unexpected and beneficial ways.”
2021 STUDENT MEDIA HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES
EILEEN A. CARPENTER
Eileen A. Carpenter is an accomplished attorney in Baltimore whose interest in stars and astronomy led her to major in physics at Vanderbilt.
In 1965, Carpenter graduated from Nashville’s Cathedral High School and enrolled at Vanderbilt, where she volunteered to write for Rap, a publication started by Black students, and The Vanderbilt Hustler student newspaper.
“Vanderbilt integrated its undergraduate school in 1964, the year before I started,” Carpenter said. “It was a challenge for me to join extracurricular organizations because, invariably, I would be the only Black in the group. However, I enjoyed camaraderie at The Hustler, and I especially enjoyed being involved with the news of the ’60s.”
Rap gave Black students an opportunity to express their frustrations and feelings of isolation. “In Rap, we mostly poured out our hearts,” Carpenter said. “The Hustler wasn’t covering the things we wanted to cover. Most students didn’t really know what Black students were going through.”
Recruited by Westinghouse, Carpenter worked there for four years as an associate engineer. Later, unhappy with the military-industrial complex and her job, Carpenter considered law school but worried it might be boring.
“I loved it right away, from Day One,” she said of the University of Maryland School of Law. “I especially enjoyed my real estate courses, which literally brought me out of the cosmos and back down to earth.
“I realized that for most people, especially black people, their home constituted their major source of wealth. My real estate courses and my private practice taught me about restrictive covenants, redlining, predatory lending, blockbusting, reverse mortgages—all the legal machinations used to legally deprive people of their property. Being a lawyer has allowed me to help a lot of people.”
After law school, she worked for Baltimore City Law Department in the labor law section for 18 years while managing a small real estate practice. In 1996, she retired from Baltimore City to work full time in her private practice. Carpenter has more than 30 years of experience handling various real estate matters. She has represented clients ranging from banking institutions and investors to individual buyers and sellers.
Reflecting on her time in student media, Carpenter said The Hustler gave her an interesting insight, especially when one of her articles was rejected because “it might offend some people,” she said.
“I think the title was ‘Blacks, Poor Whites and Southern Belles,’” Carpenter said. “As I listened to the explanation, I realized my colleagues and I had distinctly different experiences and points of view which had shaped our understanding of the subject matter. To this day, I try to understand a situation from the other person’s point of view before passing judgment.”
Henry Hecht always wanted to be a sportswriter, and he got to live the dream for 35 years.
When he arrived at Vanderbilt in 1965, he knew joining The Hustler on Day One was “a must.” He served as sports editor after working on staff throughout college. He was also a contributing writer for the Dirty Weejun campus humor magazine.
“Alumni Hall became my second home,” Hecht said of The Hustler’s location at the time. He did get out of the office senior year to cover every basketball road game, thanks to funds secured by his editor, Chuck Offenburger, BA’69, a member of the Student Media Hall of Fame.
“I can still see myself, on the phone in Knoxville and Starkville and Oxford and Baton Rouge, dictating my game stories as I met the first deadlines of my career,” Hecht said.
After graduating, he was hired as a sports clerk at the New York Post, working on the “lobster shift,” 1:30 to 8:30 am. In the “catch” of his life, he noticed a missing Knicks playoffs score minutes before deadline. Soon after he got the opportunity to report on high school basketball and then harness racing, which he covered with creativity and audacious commentary.
“I would criticize drivers for their tactics, sometimes hinting at improprieties,” Hecht said. “I made up comic poems and new lyrics to popular songs, including ‘Magical Mystery Tour.’ Most important, in the Post’s view, I sold papers. The Post actually put me on the side of their trucks after just a few weeks. Heady times for a 23 year old.”
In June 1974, Hecht’s dream of covering baseball for the Post was realized when he became the Yankees beat writer, and in 1983 he became one of the first national baseball writers. In 1984, he left to write the “Inside Pitch” column at Sports Illustrated.
Hecht then freelanced for The New York Times and The Washington Post, and on-air for NBC’s Sunday Today Show, among others, before joining The National sports daily as a sportswriter and columnist. His last stop in journalism was at Newsday as a sports copy editor and writer.
Since 2005, he has been a writing coach and SAT and ACT tutor. His love of teaching first surfaced at the Post and continued at Newsday, where he worked with young writers. Appreciative of editors who helped him, Hecht has sought opportunities to help others whenever possible.
“I worship the English language and enjoy tutoring as much as I enjoyed being a journalist, which makes me the luckiest of people,” Hecht said. “I’ve had two careers that I have truly loved.”
ANN MARIE DEER OWENS
Ann Marie Deer Owens has been telling Vanderbilt’s stories for the past 29 years through her roles in Communications and Marketing at the university. Her interest in writing and broadcasting started when she was a student here.
Owens joined several students from Saint Andrew’s School in Boca Raton, Florida, in selecting Vanderbilt, where she majored in English and joined WRVU radio’s news staff and The Hustler’s arts staff.
She recalled Shakespearean Professor Scott Colley assigning readings of renowned literary critic and alumnus Cleanth Brooks, so when Brooks visited campus, Owens volunteered to cover it for The Hustler.
“Brooks’ agent turned me down for a sit-down interview,” Owens said. “I had to wait outside the University Club and chase him as he was leaving a library-hosted dinner. This was not conducive to writing an in-depth article, but it made the paper’s front page.”
She spent three afternoons a week at WRVU, where she learned how to edit audio, write broadcast copy, curate wire stories and deliver newscasts every hour. Owens said she felt at home working in radio, and she made lifelong friends at WRVU.
“I learned you have to be persistent, and you have to really want to do it,” Owens said. “Nobody’s going to hand it to you. I think it really gave me the confidence to knock on many doors on the way to starting my career.”
After graduating, Owens worked at WMAK Radio on the midnight shift, which was “awful,” she said. She moved to WKDA-KDF radio in Nashville, where she would stay for 13 years and serve as news director. In 1990, The Tennessee Associated Press Broadcasters Association named her Broadcaster of the Year.
She left broadcasting to work in the nonprofit sector before returning to Vanderbilt in 1992 as a public affairs officer. Among her many projects, Owens created radio spots, including the award-winning That’s Vanderbilt audio feature, which was broadcast during Vanderbilt football and basketball games and a Nashville radio talk show. She now serves as senior writer and storyteller at Vanderbilt. One highlight in her Vanderbilt career was working on a story about former Sen. Lamar Alexander, BA’62, a member of the Student Media Hall of Fame. Alexander donated his papers to Vanderbilt Special Collections, and because Owens had covered his gubernatorial campaign and administration earlier in her career, she “felt part of that time in Tennessee history.”
Owens has served on several local nonprofit boards, including Friends of the Susan Gray School, where she was board president, and the Nashville Shakespeare Festival. For VSC’s previous Student Media Hall of Fame announcements, Owens interviewed and wrote the inductees’ stories every year from 2009 to 2020.
Jay Graves successfully cofounded, grew, and sold successful data-driven businesses before stepping into his current position as chief operating officer of Nashville-based marketing firm Blueprint.Inc. He credits his experiences at Vanderbilt student media for teaching him to love the written word, discover his work ethic, and marvel at real-world applications of technology.
Graves spent his first two years at Vanderbilt studying engineering before switching gears to major in political science. He worked for The Hustler and other publications as a photographer and writer during all four years of college.
It was a transformational time when photographs were developed in the darkroom while digital photography was just starting. Graves brought in the first digital pictures his senior year, and he was there for the first newspaper layout using desktop publishing.
“We somewhat affectionately referred to ourselves as ‘tunnel rats’ since we never saw the light of day from working in the bottom of Sarratt Student Center,” he wrote in VSC’s alumni newsletter, adding that the newspaper “taught me about desktop publishing, networking, pre-press, people management and production schedules—things vital to modern marketing success.”
After graduating, Graves took a position managing political-fundraising databases. He had dabbled in database work at The Hustler, but he said he quickly discovered he had no real database experience. Even so, he learned on the job and said, “I just completely and utterly fell in love with it.”
In 1995, Graves co-founded SmartDM, which started as a direct mail agency and then grew into one of the original Software-as-a-Service providers focusing on customer database management and email marketing.
He and his partners built an email distribution system using personal computers and then took advantage of the burgeoning internet. Graves developed a system allowing sales representatives to combine sales-leads databases with ticket-sales technology for the Nashville Predators, the company’s first subscriber. Eventually, 300 sports teams were running the subscription software packages. SmartDM grew to 90 employees and was purchased by Acxiom for $22 million in 2005.
Graves later cofounded the SSB Central Intelligence platform, which was sold to Strattam Capital in 2018. He also served as a board member at community volunteer organization Hands On Nashville during a “profound period of growth,” during which he was the chief advisor on HON’s first business planning process and a multi-year organizational expansion.
Graves now runs operations for his wife Liza Graves’ (BS’94) business, StyleBlueprint.com.
“It’s a digital magazine that, upon reflection, is a lot of deadline-driven publishing that is eerily similar to my college days,” he said. “Apparently, I can’t get away from publishing.”
Pete Madden is an award-winning reporter, editor and producer for the ABC News Investigative Unit. His early interest in sports journalism evolved into a talent for investigative journalism while he was a student Vanderbilt, and he would experience a similar evolution in his professional career.
“I didn’t realize Vanderbilt had such a rich sportswriting tradition,” he said. “I liked sports, and I liked writing, so I applied to join the Hustler staff. That’s what made sense in my 18-year-old brain.”
For Madden, the behind-the-scenes access, the press box, and talking to players, made for an exciting experience, underscored when fellow students read his byline in the paper and asked him about his writing.
During his sophomore year, Madden joined a small group of students to pursue an investigative journalism project with VSC advisers. He said the experience showed him news is “more than what someone tells you to cover,” and he learned the basics of enterprise reporting.
“It was like an investigative team. It got you thinking, you don’t have to just wait for something to happen,” Madden said.
He was a sports editor for The Hustler and was the first sports editor for the former student media website InsideVandy.com. After graduating with a double major in communications studies and English, Madden earned an M.S. in digital media at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism in 2012.
He then worked at The Los Angeles Times and later as a senior producer at Sports Illustrated, where he covered golf, a sport he had never played or watched.
“Covering tournaments was a lot of fun, but it wasn’t hard-hitting. Then a certain golf course owner ran for president, and my stories now had national significance,” he said.
Madden co-reported the Sports Illustrated “First Golfer” feature about President Donald Trump’s global golf business. Trump called it “fake news,” but The Washington Post called “one of the best pieces of political journalism of the Trump age.”
In April 2017, ABC News snapped him up. Madden serves as an investigative producer and has covered the Mueller investigation, sex abuse in sports, and human rights violations at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Madden led the network’s groundbreaking investigation of the NFL’s use of “race-norming” to determine eligibility for compensation to former players suffering from the lingering effects of head injuries, resulting in the league’s abandonment of the controversial practice.
Madden has twice been nominated for Emmy Awards, and his work has been cited by The Best American Sports Writing series.
2022 STUDENT MEDIA HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES
As a Vanderbilt undergraduate, Francesca Amiker was a leader in video production through the work she did with Vanderbilt Television. Today, she is a four-time Emmy Award-winning journalist who serves as a correspondent for E! News at E! Networks.
When she served as Vanderbilt Television’s morning anchor on the Morning VU show, she interviewed celebrities and fellow students on-air to help them share their stories with the Vanderbilt audience.
“I became a self-starter and self-sufficient journalist thanks to Vanderbilt Student Communications,” Amiker said. “When I graduated into the real world, I quickly realized I had the privilege of knowing how to find the story, shoot the story, write the story, edit the video for the story and deliver the story as an anchor or reporter on a newscast—all while still going to classes.”
“Knowing how to do it all in a fast-paced environment is what quickly landed me my first, second, and third local news jobs,” she said. Those skills would later help launch her national career.
After graduation, she dove into a career in journalism, working her way up until she became morning entertainment anchor at 11 Alive News, NBC Atlanta, where she founded the station’s first-ever entertainment franchise The A-Scene, a 30-minute entertainment show.
As anchor, she covered subjects from technology to politics, and she went above and beyond to land exclusive set visits and red-carpet interviews. Within a year of joining the morning show, viewership doubled, and for the first time ever, 11 Alive saw an increase in younger viewers.
“When I think about accomplishments as a journalist, I think about what impact I’ve had on the communities that I’ve served,” Amiker said. “I am proud of the smiles I left in Lansing, Michigan, the justice that I helped acquire for certain communities in Jacksonville living in squalor, but one of my proudest accomplishments was being able to sit on the anchor desk in my hometown of Atlanta and have my mom and dad watch from their living room. I added to the fabric of my city by creating an entertainment community that helps actors, producers, and directors rise in the industry.”
Coming full circle, she visited Vanderbilt in 2021 to serve as the keynote speaker for VSC’s annual Media Intensive workshop, a program designed to introduce incoming students to media opportunities at Vanderbilt and beyond. “Close your eyes and envision your biggest dream,” she told students after recounting her own inspirational story. “You are going to get yourself there through your own hard work.”
Hayes Ferguson served for a decade as a newspaper reporter, including five years as a foreign correspondent. Now she directs Northwestern University’s Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and acts as a clinical associate professor in the university’s McCormick School of Engineering.
Long before her award-winning career as an entrepreneur, she received her BA in political science and Spanish from Vanderbilt University. While a student at Vandy, she was a photographer for the Commodore yearbook and a DJ for WRVU, where she interviewed multiple bands live on-air.
In what would be the first interview in a career that has included hundreds, Ferguson spoke with members of The Long Ryders.
“A few friends came down to the studio after the band started playing songs on-air, and the session turned into a party that required station management to intervene,” she said. “I’ve been far more professional since then.”
Also in heavy rotation during Ferguson’s shift were fledgling bands like the Smiths and R.E.M. A favorite memory is bartending at R.E.M.’s Nashville record release party for their debut EP.
“At the time, they were a group of relative unknowns playing music that was unlike anything that was on commercial radio,” she said. “About 40 people showed up in a room in Sarratt to celebrate their first record and drink cheap beer.”
Ferguson’s stint at WRVU led to gigs hosting music and news shows in Trenton, Philadelphia, Italy, and her hometown, New Orleans. But she ultimately was drawn to writing and reporting—something that came easily, thanks to years of radio interviews.
After covering Latin America for The Times-Picayune from a base in Mexico City, Ferguson was awarded a Knight-Wallace fellowship for accomplished journalists at University of Michigan. Following the yearlong sabbatical in Ann Arbor, she wrote for People magazine before pivoting to digital media entrepreneurship in the late 1990s. She was part of the founding management team of Legacy.com, among the 50 most visited websites. After the company was sold, she held leadership roles at multiple digital media startups before joining Northwestern.
“I’ve been very fortunate to do a lot of things I’m passionate about, through a very non-linear career,” she said. “A key lesson learned, which I share with my students all the time, is: Do what you enjoy and the rest will unfold in unexpected and rewarding ways.”
“It’s really hard to predict where you’re going to land five years after graduation, much less 40 years later,” she tells her students. “But the experiences you gain in college will lay a strong foundation for whatever is to come.”
Chad Gervich is a television producer, bestselling author, award-winning playwright, and dedicated educator who has continued to support the Vanderbilt community long after his matriculation.
A class of 1996 graduate, Gervich began his media career as a DJ, radio host, and producer for WRVU and Vanderbilt Television. “Working with VSC was the first time I realized I could take these things that I loved—music, TV, film, etc.—and actually do something professional with them,” Gervich said. “They weren’t professional in the sense that they paid me, but they all allowed me to make professional decisions, put those decisions into the world, and see how they were received.”
Fast-forward 25 years, and he has written, developed, and produced shows for a staggering number of media titans: HBO Max, Paramount+, ABC, FOX, Warner Brothers, Amazon, VH1, MTV, Endemol, CBS Studios, YouTube, TruTV, and Food Network.
He is best known for his work on HBO’s acclaimed documentary "Gaming Wall Street”; E!’s hit comedy "After Lately," starring Chelsea Handler; Lifetime's "My Partner Knows Best," starring Jason Biggs and Jenny Mollen; Disney Channel’s "Dog With a Blog”; and ABC’s “Wipeout.”
In addition to his television work, he has also authored three books, including the best-selling Random House title “Small Screen, Big Picture: A Writer’s Guide to the TV Business,” commonly considered television’s go-to “bible” for those working in the industry. Gervich teaches all of UCLA’s undergraduate TV-writing courses, and he has taught and designed courses for NYU, Emerson, Warner Bros., Fox, Nike, and the Singapore Media Academy.
“I feel most proud of the fact that I’ve survived, that I’ve been writing in Hollywood for nearly 20 years,” Gervich said when considering his career in hindsight. “It can be a brutal industry. I’ve thought about giving up a million times, and maybe the day that it beats me is just around the corner … but it hasn’t happened yet."
In 2007, Gervich co-founded Vandy-in-Hollywood, a professional organization which has placed 300+ Vanderbilt students in professional internships, and he recently was appointed to the Vanderbilt Alumni Association Board.
“To me, Vanderbilt is where I became myself—or at least, where I started to become the self I wanted to be. It’s where I started writing things that were meaningful,” he said. “While I’m super proud of all the work we’ve done with Vandy-in-Hollywood, and while I love the idea of giving back, the truth is: I don’t do it to give back. I do it, selfishly, for me. To stay connected to Vanderbilt.”
Katherine Miller is a writer and editor who focuses her work on some of the most pressing issues of our time: elections and challenges and threats to democracy. Miller recently joined The New York Times as a writer/editor in Opinion, and she previously served as a political editor at BuzzFeed News.
“I am very proud of overseeing BuzzFeed News's 2016 campaign coverage and broader politics and government coverage,” Miller said. “The last decade in American politics has really been turbulent and difficult, and my greatest source of pride is really working with a wide variety of reporters as an editor to tell some of those really deep stories about lots of different political figures.”
While at BuzzFeed News, Miller hosted VSC students for a tour of the newsroom in NYC. Before joining BuzzFeed, she worked in conservative media, including at the Washington Free Beacon where she was an editor.
In announcing Miller’s move to The New York Times, the newspaper reported, “Over eight years at BuzzFeed News, Katherine edited and oversaw their politics coverage through the 2016 election, helped developed new projects and shows, and worked on big features.”
“Working with great reporters,” The Times reported, “She’s edited unique profiles of figures like Bernie Sanders and Herman Cain; definitive accounts of the 2017 congressional baseball shooting and disastrous 2020 Democratic Iowa caucus; investigations like one into alt-right white supremacists in Washington; and during the pandemic era, features on the struggles of Gen Z and school teachers, as well as young Black activists navigating what comes after the protests over George Floyd’s death.”
Before Miller began her impressive journalism career, she studied English at Vanderbilt, graduating in 2010. During her tenure at Vanderbilt, she led the website version of The Hustler, which was then called InsideVandy.com, and helped attract 40,000+ visitors to the new site. She also led the Torch, a conservative and libertarian monthly, and she served as a member of the VSC Board of Directors.
“Working for the paper in college introduced the idea to me that you could go above and beyond with a story or the design of something, and people you actually knew might find value in reading it, and that there's a real potential connection between what's written and what's read, whether that's about politics or a restaurant,” Miller said. “And, as a result, if you can really articulate something that people experience or feel about how a person is or how things work in writing (which is very difficult, and often involves realizing you're wrong about things) then that's a meaningful exercise.”
Winner of 10 Emmys and three Peabody Awards, Stuart Watson is an entrepreneur, author, podcaster, and speaker who has interviewed more than 7,000 people on camera.
Graduating from Vanderbilt with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature in 1983, Watson got his start in journalism at the university, both in class and as a contributor to Versus literary magazine and WRVU.
“My first really memorable journalism exposure at Vanderbilt was an English Lit class called ‘Literature vs. Journalism: Art vs. Craft,’” he said. “We met in Old Science before it was saved from the wrecking ball and renovated. We compared the fiction of writers like George Orwell and Ernest Hemingway to the newspaper reporting they did around the same events.”
“I saw Barbara Kopple’s Oscar-winning documentary Harlan County, USA at the Sarratt Cinema not long after it came out. I think all that stuff worked together to contribute to the idea of artful non-fiction as a legit craft worth doing.”
Watson still remembers Vanderbilt’s great Dean Sarratt once saying: “It’s a fine thing to have an open mind, provided that it is not open at both ends!”
“I never forgot that,” Watson said. “Vanderbilt opened the mind of this closed fundamentalist from behind the Magnolia Curtain and paved the way for me to become a real spiritual person. I learned I could couple a spiritual pursuit with my life in professional journalism and practice my principles in my daily affairs.”
A Neiman Fellow at Harvard in 2008, Watson served three terms on the board of directors of Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE). Perhaps the most remarkable highlights of his career, however, are the organizations Watson founded.
After losing his mom and dad on the same day from the same disease, Alzheimer’s, Watson founded his company Voice Locket in 2021. Using his four decades of professional experience, he captures and preserves the life stories of the people we love most—in their own words, with their own voices.
“I feel like my whole life has led me to founding Voice Locket,” Watson said. “Interviewing 7,000+ people on camera. The Vanderbilt University education. The Harvard University fellowship. But mostly, it's deeply personal. A calling.”
He also launched the media brand In Her Words and the podcast by the same name to elevate the stories of a diverse group of strong women who bounce back. In 2020, he published his related book “What She Said & What I Heard: How One Man Shut Up and Started Listening.”
“The work I’m most proud of I have yet to do,” Watson said. “Stay tuned. I ain’t dead.”