By Linda Moua, Fresno State MCJ student
The Media, Communication and Journalism (MCJ) Hall of Fame attendees were greeted with light jazz music as they mingled with their colleagues, old and new. Red and blue balloons were strung, and the 2019 Hall of Fame logo hung on the podium. Students networked with some of the biggest names in the local media industry, and guests from all over the U.S. flew in to surprise their loved ones who were honored at the event.
Light hors d’oeuvres, dessert and drinks were available for attendees as they reconnected with each other and made their way to the raffle and silent auction stations that displayed prizes like a cruise, Grizzlies swag, and a firetruck ride-along.
More than 150 alumni, scholarship recipients, students, faculty, parents and ten honored MCJ alumni and friends attended the 2019 Hall of Fame Induction and Scholarship Reception. Students of the MCJ 159S “Cases and Campaigns” course produced the event for their experiential capstone class taught by Professor Jan Edwards.
MCJ 2019 Fellow Kelley Sanchez, Director of Communication at Saint Agnes Medical Center commented, “I didn’t know what to expect, but it definitely exceeded anything I could have imagined. I have nothing but praise for all of you!”
The sense of community and family is strong; alumni and friends came together for one night to honor exceptional alumni and outstanding students. The hosts of the event connected the diverse groups with music and trivia involving historical facts from bygone eras.
Honorees have distinguished themselves in their careers, contributed to the betterment of the industry or have made volunteer efforts outside the workplace. Hall of Fame inductees are those who have completed or are near ending their primary careers, while fellows are in the prime of their careers.
This year, the MCJ Department honored eight fellows: Amy Wilson, Eric McCormick, George Takata Smith, Juan Esparza Loera, Jose Elgorriaga, Julie Logan Lindahl, Guy Haberman and Kelley Sanchez.
The two inductees were James “Jim” R. Wilson and George Gruner.
Wilson is a professor emeritus at Fresno State, former vice president and general manager of KMJ Radio. He was one of the people who helped merge the Telecommunication Department with the Journalism Department to form the new Department of Mass Communication and Journalism (now known as Media, Communications and Journalism).
During acknowledgments, Wilson thanked mentors, friends, and family, especially his father. His father had been in the newspaper business by the time Wilson entered college and didn’t approve of his major in radio and television broadcast. His father called radio and television a “passing phantom phase.” They argued back and forth until they reached an agreement for Wilson to do at least a journalism minor.
“It was probably the best decision I made,” Wilson recalled as his background in writing, radio, and television prepared him well for a variety of newsroom jobs and eventually a full-time teaching position at Fresno State.
Gruner, a long-time friend of the MCJ department, was the former executive editor of The Fresno Bee and one of the “Bee Four” journalists who was jailed in 1976 after refusing to reveal the name of a confidential source. His journalism career spanned 46 years.
“Facts on state, national, and local issues come from a myriad of sources, but local news is still a reporter’s stock and trade and efforts in the public interest are the best examples of how YOU are meeting today’s challenge in our own backyards,” said Gruner.
Approximately $8,000 was raised for future MCJ Scholarships through ticket sales, raffle tickets and donations–a stunning new record.
MCJ 2014 Fellow, Michelle Von Tersch, Vice President of Corporate Communications at Community Medical Centers said, “The Hall of Fame and Scholarship reception just keeps getting better and better. Congrats on a wonderful event!”
Thank you to the following companies for their generous donations: Alpha Graphics, Carnival Cruises, Ryan Cook Fishing, Clovis Fire Department, Fresno Grizzlies, Mai Sweet Adventures, Pardini’s Catering, Valley Wide Beverage, Moravia Wines, FTB Print & Mail, and San Francisco Floral.
A tremendous thank you to the sponsors that made this event possible: The College of Arts & Humanities, the MCJ Alumni and Friends Chapter, and the MCJ department.
Jer Xiong, Fresno State MFA Creative Writing student, contributed to this story.