JONESBORO — Former and current students, faculty members and guests gathered Monday afternoon to celebrate and recognize the 95th birthday of Arkansas State University’s student newspaper, The Herald, at a reception in the Herald office at the Education and Communications Building on campus.
“We’ve come a long way in 95 years,” said Herald adviser Sandra Combs to a standing-room-only crowd before sharing some of the best and worst of times the university newspaper’s endured and reported on throughout its existence.
Those in attendance who offered congratulatory remarks include current dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Communication Dr. Carl Cates; former dean and current vice rector of the A-State Campus Querétaro in Mexico Dr. Brad Rawlins; vice chancellor for Finance and Administration Dr. Len Frey; former chair and Herald adviser Dr. Joel Gambill; and graduate program director and journalism instructor Dr. Gil Fowler.
Graduates of the journalism program, employees and other faculty members also offered messages and memories from their time working with the newspaper. Combs also praised the efforts of Bonnie Thrasher who was a member of the journalism faculty and adviser to The Herald. Thrasher died unexpectedly in April 2015.
Cates, who joined the university in April and has a background in communications, greeted the crowd by noting “journalism improves our democracy and improves our way of life.”
“The role of journalism is important because of much information out there,” added Rawlins. He encouraged the Herald staffers to “keep doing what you’re doing and stay committed to finding the truth.”
The Herald became a reality Nov. 18, 1921, and has served as the newspaper voice of Arkansas State. Originally named the “Aggie Herald,” the publication has evolved throughout nine-and-a-half decades into one that adheres to the ethical codes of the Society of Professional Journalists and the First Amendment. It is also printed in color on campus.
Dr. F. W. “Tex” Plunkett was the father of the Arkansas State journalism program. In 1932, the name was changed to the “Arkansas State College Herald” and began to grow under Plunkett’s tutelage. Shortly thereafter, degree programs in journalism and printing were established.
Dr. Joel Gambill, an A-State graduate and former student editor, took over as adviser of The Herald in 1966. As a student, Gambill and then Herald editor Roy Ockert were in Little Rock in 1967 when the state legislature approved the bill allowing Arkansas State College to become Arkansas State University. They rushed back to Jonesboro in a snowstorm to ensure that the four-page Herald would have the headline “ASU A Reality” and worked throughout the night to finish the paper’s publication.
After serving on the journalism faculty, Ockert’s last full-time position was the editor of the Jonesboro Sun. In 2014, he and wife Pat, also a former Herald editor, initiated the Roy and Pat Ockert Herald Editor Scholarship Endowment for the Herald’s editor-in-chief.
“I want to point out to all of these students how much I appreciate all of your hard work,” stated Gambill at the reception. “Congratulations on 95 years.”
“The Herald has grown tremendously,” concluded Fowler. “I hope the students know how lucky you are to have support for your work. Protect and take care of The Herald.”
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