Kudos to a classmate

Some of the happiest days of my life were spent with the University of Southern Mississippi School of Journalism classes of 1979 and 1980.

In the movie “The Front Page,” Walter Matthau asks Jack Lemmon, “What do you think this is, The Student Printz?” I had the great honor of serving as executive editor of The Student Printz, one of the nation’s outstanding college newspapers, and more zany fun than Matthau and Lemmon sharing those days with a staff of college kids 15 years my junior.

We all share a deep and abiding love for our professor and mentor, Dr. Gene Wiggins. And we all have our own Wiggins stories! Dr. Wiggins retired last year after 35 years of nurturing journalism and mass communication students with his great sense of humor and keen knowledge.

Classmates Bill Sumrall, Tim Farrell (aka Father Tim), Becky Brown, Scott Boyd, the sisters Bruce (Barbara and Jana), Dana Gower and Kathleen Koch all went on to successful careers, but only one (so far) has been invited back to give the college commencement address.

Kathleen Koch, who had that distinction in 2007, recently left CNN after 18 years as a general assignment reporter. Kathleen was caught up in the big shakeup at CNN’s D.C. bureau, which resulted in the exit of some of the network’s best and brightest on-air talent.

I often marveled to see Kathleen reporting from the Pentagon or the White House, covering some of the biggest breaking stories of our time. And, I was always amazed that she has never lost her delicate Barbie doll good looks!

Many of you saw Kathleen’s outstanding post-Katrina special report, “Saving My Town: The Fight for Bay St. Louis,”

CNN promoted the 2006 special report thusly:

“What does it take to rebuild a community - physically and psychologically - from the ground up? Will residents return to rebuild? Will insurance companies honor their commitment to their customers? The residents of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, have asked these questions for six months since Hurricane Katrina leveled much of their town.

“To help find the answers, CNN taps Kathleen Koch. For Koch, this isn't just a story of death, destruction and loss. It's the story of her hometown, where the house she grew up in, along with hundreds of others, has been reduced to a concrete slab. Join her and the residents of Bay St. Louis as one small community comes together to come back from the edge of extinction.”

Wiggins would have pocketed his red pen and given her an “A.”

Here is Kathleen’s parting memo to her CNN associates:

“2009 will be a year of change for the nation. And it will be a year of change for me. After 18 years with CNN, I am moving on.

“I am so grateful for the amazing opportunity I've had to cover so many disparate and challenging beats, from aviation, to hurricanes, the Pentagon, Capitol Hill. And while I've helped out on the White House beat since 1996, I've particularly enjoyed being there full-time for the past year. It takes a special breed not only to cover that beat, but to do the people's work within those gray sandstone walls. I have made friends there in the media and on the staff that I hope will last a lifetime.

“I am also grateful to CNN for its flexibility during the years when I worked part-time. The opportunity to put my family first while my daughters were young was worth its weight in gold.

“I have always said the best thing about CNN is the people you work with. And that is what I will miss most. After 18 years, you are my family. I will not begin to try to say thank you. The list would be endless. Just know that it has been an honor and a pleasure to work with you through blizzards, hurricanes, droughts, floods, plane crashes, hearings, press conferences, endless stakeouts ... We pulled together and put on stories that illuminated, educated, entertained and sometimes, when we did our job particularly well, changed people’s lives.

“You have all enriched my life, and for that I count myself a fortunate woman. As my friends on the Mississippi Gulf Coast always say, I am blessed.


All of your classmates have been blessed by your successful career, Kathleen. We salute your professionalism and wish you all the best.


Bill Sumrall, Class of '77 said...

As a former "Student Printz" staffer, I enjoyed knowing Kathy while at USM and must say she has done well in a tough business.
I wish her well in her future and have no doubt we'll see her on the air again.

Bill Sumrall, Make that, Class of '79 said...


B.J. said...

Bill: I remember when you overslept and failed to show up with Wigging’ “news tips.” He dismissed class by saying, “If anyone’s looking for Mr. Sumrall, look for a little pile of bones with a moustache on top.” You hid out for days! BJ

tiny said...

BJ, sounds like you and your friends had wonderful adventures throughout your lives. Thank you for sharing them with your readers.

Wishing the best for each of you and more successes the reat of your lives.

Kudos to each of you as you journey forth.