JACC No. 3: Honors

April 22, 2017
I owe a lot to JACC, from the early days when veteran advisers like Tom Kramer gave newbies like me advising advice to the support the organization gave me when my programs were in trouble. I’ve tried to give back, with interest.
And I certainly have felt appreciated by JACC in many ways for the work that I have contributed. Three particular occasions stand out: when I was honored with a lifetime achievement award and an award was named in my honor, when I stepped down from the board for the last time, and most recently this spring when they took a moment to recognize my retirement.
Over the course of the years of the late 1990s and early 2000s, the organization initiated a number of awards meant to recognize outstanding contributions to community college journalism education in California.
The first was the Distinguished Service to Journalism Education award for someone outside the organization –involved in the industry, involved at the university level, or retired from JACC—who had contributed in a significate way. The second was to name outstanding college administrators who had stood up for programs at their colleges. And the third was to recognize outstanding volunteer efforts from within the organization.
When the latter idea was floated with the organization, folks indicated that it would have to go to Rich Cameron. But that was not the point. I was on staff and on the board of directors. We wanted to recognize others. We established the Rich Cameron Outstanding Volunteer Award, later referred to some as the “Cammie.” It began in 2003.
This was flattering enough, but the board surprised me when it came time to hand out the award. It seems that the board members secretly voted to also honor me with a Lifetime Achievement Award (and a cartload of Dr. Pepper). The thing of it was, though, that I was the one keeping minutes of the meeting where the directors decided this. The vote took place surreptitiously as I sat there. I had no idea. That doesn’t happen too often.
While it is the only lifetime achievement award offered by the organization to date, I think another person deserved one, and likely would have received it had she not died from pneumonia shortly after she retired: Jolene Combs from El Camino College. Her contributions spanned over both community college and southern California high school journalism education. Those of us who worked with her, and the list is long, miss her and her energy.
Unfortunately, by 2017 austere measures undertaken by the organization to stay afloat financially appear to have ended the practice of giving out the Distinguished Service award, the Administrator award, and the Volunteer award.
What still remains are annual Outstanding Educator Awards for high school, community college, and university faculty. That award was started some 50 years ago by the California Newspaper Publishers Association (er, I guess it is now the California News Publishers Association) and is currently administered through the California Journalism and Media Affiliates. I am proud to be part of that group, but hope JACC can one day afford to acknowledge outstanding people again.
I stepped down from the board for the last time in 2014 and the organization honored me again and presented me with one of the most unusual trophies I have ever seen. First, we have a special sweepstakes award we hand out to four of the top college programs at our annual convention each year. We call it the Pacesetter Award. The trophy is a mounted 20-pound rock, symbolizing me as a rock in the foundation of JACC. It is also an honorary Pacesetter.
And finally, the organization took time out at its final awards dinner of this year. Paul DeBolt of Contra Costa College said some very nice things about me and suggested that the nickname some in the organization have given me of “Mr. JACC” was inappropriate, because my contributions to journalism education span beyond JACC.
What he and others don’t understand is how much JACC has meant to me and what a blessing it has been over the years to help others. I think that is something my mother must have instilled in me.
I took advantage of the opportunity to preach a little bit about the future of community college journalism and the challenges facing journalism programs here. Among them, we need to get out of our campus silos and collaborate more.
After the ceremony, I had students from a number of schools and student groups coming up to me and asking for selfies. That felt weird.
The following week students from across the state were having a weekly Twitter chat and someone referred to me as a goat. What, do I look a goat or something? That perplexed me until someone explained that it is not a goat, but the GOAT, or Greatest of All Time. Oh.
I hope though, that even though I am retiring from teaching, that I will continue to have a role in advancing journalism education for some time. As I told the group in April: I have ideas, and they will be hearing from me.
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Next: My most significant contribution

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