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Greatest Year of My Life

By Wayne Dawkins ’80
assistant professor, Hampton Univ. Scripps Howard School

In 1979-80, the educators at the J-School gave this shy guy from Brooklyn permission to be brash and bold if it were in the name of good journalism and civic virtue.

Professors Donald "Pete" Johnston and Phyllis T. Garland profoundly shaped my daily journalism, and now teaching career. Johnston and Garland both were nurturing people; they fed my love of reporting and kept reminding me to be a patient, craftsmanlike writer.

Both journalists turned academics were rigorous editors. My writing assignments were autopsies, soaked in red ink, Yet both professors edited with love. They were committed to excellence.

In 2011-12, I was named the teacher of the year at Hampton University.

This week I am among six finalists [and the only non- Ph.D.] for male HBCU educator of the year.

I know I've come this far because I stood on the shoulders of giants at 116th and Broadway. I'm eternally grateful.

Now what was so great about 1979-80? That school year my classmates and I covered the Pope's visit to NYC; we experienced the Iran hostage crisis and birth of "Nightline," we experienced the 1980 election campaign and hints of the coming Reagan revolution; and there was Mayor Ed Koch.

At Monday World Room forums, Mike Wallace explained the ground rules for off the record/background/not for attribution, William F. Buckley sparred with classmates over OPEC politics, and Roger Wilkins showed us what an African-American journalist/public intellectual looks like.

I was blessed with outstanding adjunct instructors: Anna Quindlen, A.H. Raskin and C. Gerald Fraser and Carter Wiseman.

I'm blessed to call these folks classmates: Pulitzer Prize winners Jeff Gottleib, Jim Dwyer and Betty Winston Baye; bestselling authors James McBride and Jill Nelson, other classmates who are foreign correspondents, editors, producers, public affairs professionals, and oh my, until just days ago, a state Supreme Court justice!

The blessings overflow.

Posted by: AlumniAlumni April 2012

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