By Meg Cullar
Baylor’s Department of Journalism, Public Relations, and New Media celebrated excellence in journalism education with a series of events on October 20-21. Almost 250 people filled Barfield Drawing Room to honor the fiftieth anniversary of the “Cheavens-McHam era” in the department, with David McHam ’58 as the guest of honor. Former students traveled from as far as Alaska to see their college professor.
Both Dave Cheavens ’33 and McHam came to Baylor’s journalism department in 1961 from positions in the news business. Cheavens had been Austin bureau chief of the Associated Press for twenty years, and McHam was writing for the Houston Post after earning a master’s degree in the prestigious program at Columbia University.
At the banquet, Baylor’s journalism department awarded McHam with the inaugural Legacy in Journalism Education Award.
“Neither of my parents graduated from high school,” McHam said after accepting the award. “So they would be surprised to know that all of you have come here to see me tonight.”
McHam, now seventy-eight, still teaches journalism as an instructional professor at the University of Houston, where he has taught since 2001. He taught at SMU from 1974 to 1998 and at the University of Texas Arlington from 1998-2001. In 1994, the Society of Professional Journalists named him the outstanding journalism teacher in the nation.
Cheavens died in 1970 at the age of sixty-three while still serving as department chair and director of the news bureau for Baylor. According to his obituary, Cheavens devoted the final years of his life to raising money for what is now the Castellaw Communications Building. The building is named in honor of Cheavens’s friend, Jack Castellaw, who died in the Immortal Ten bus-train crash in 1927. Cheavens was also on the bus.
In addition to the banquet, Baylor also hosted three educational events—one speaker and two discussion panels. On Thursday, Pat Dougherty ’74, editor of the Anchorage Daily News, spoke about his experience in the news business, his paper’s Pulitzer Prize-winning series on suicides in rural Alaska, and his coverage of former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.
“In the old days, when you lived in Alaska and visited what we referred to as the ‘Lower Forty-Eight,’ people asked you about the cold and the dark, or bears, or fishing,” Dougherty said. “Now they ask you about Sarah Palin. I kind of miss the old days.”
A panel of sports writers on Friday morning included David Pickle ’74, NCAA director of digital communications, as moderator; Dave Campbell ’50, founder of Texas Football magazine and a sportswriter for more than fifty years; David McCollum ’72, sportswriter and columnist at the Arkansas Democrat and the Log Cabin Democrat; and Eddie Sefko, NBA writer for the Dallas Morning News. The panelists talked about everything from the NBA lockout to the value of Twitter in sports reporting.
On Friday afternoon, Baylor President Ken Starr defended a degree of privacy in government deliberations as part of a panel discussion on freedom of information laws. Moderated by Tony Pederson ’73, the Belo Distinguished Chair of Journalism at SMU, the panel also included Kenneth Bunting, executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition; Charles Overby, former chair and CEO of the Newseum and the Freedom Forum & Diversity Institute; and Thomas Williams, a partner at the Haynes and Boone law firm.
The winter issue of the Baylor Line will include a feature story about the career and influence of David McHam. To make sure you receive an issue, become a member of the Baylor Alumni Association.
For Lariat stories on the events of October 20-21, check these links: