When Oscar Wilde lay on his death bed, he purportedly said of the hideous wallpaper in his room, “Either it goes, or I do.”
I told the University of Tennessee either the construction goes, or I do.
Looks like I’m going.
After two decades as a Tennessee Volunteer fan, I shall soon also identify as a University of Tennessee alumna. Before I don the cap and gown, I want to share some final thoughts.
The TNJN staff met for the last time this semester early Thursday morning. For the final time, I led the meeting as Editor-in-Chief, speaking to the editors important to the site and important to me.
When I left my hometown, Kingsport, Tennessee, to begin my freshman year at UT, I heard one phrase ad nauseam: “You will meet so many new people.”
I failed to understand the emphasis on people. I thought, “Why aren’t you all talking about education and professional development?”
In the following weeks, months and years, I realized why we emphasize the relationships we build in college. Without each other, learning and growth remain impossible. No one develops as a scholar, professional or person without the support of others.
Alumni support us with donations and professional networking. Peers push us by challenging our ideas and empathizing through shared experience. Professors, lecturers and teaching assistants educate, advise and encourage us – answering our questions, listening to our discourse and working together to innovate for our futures.
All students encounter such people during their studies. I just happened to encounter the best.
This letter does not serve as a forum for esoteric journey metaphors or a link to Bette Midler’s “Wind Beneath My Wings” or lengthy anecdotes.
This letter serves to thank those who helped me every step of the way through unimaginable support, humor, strength and love:
To the TNJN staff, past and present – for your tenacity, your friendship, your work and your attention.
To Dean Michael Wirth and Ms. Alice Bowling Wirth – for your commitments to our college, its core values and its future.
To Dr. Catherine Luther and JEM faculty – for your dedication to me, my peers and this site as we adapt to a constantly changing field.
To Drs. Stovall and Caudill – retired, but not forgotten.
To Dr. Maria Fontenot – for sharing your passion for media law to keep my attention through a test, a quiz and a lecture in the same evening.
To Benny Smith – for sharing your charisma, for allowing me to work on-air like my mother and aunt before me and for teaching me how to build and love a brand.
To Brian Canever – for allowing me to simultaneously blog about Hunter S. Thompson and UT sports and for your encouragement as a fellow writer/long-form fanatic.
To Dr. Sam Swan – for your respect and support as I leave this place better equipped to learn and lead “sooner than [I] expect.”
To Dr. Nick Geidner – for giving this old-school writer the tools to produce decent multimedia content and for your consistent willingness to help in any capacity.
To Dr. Barb Kaye – for selling me on a great love of television and movies during two important semesters in my undergraduate career and for helping me to better understand our business.
To Prof. Lisa Gary – for teaching me beginning to end, JEM 175 Fall 2015/JEM 414 Fall 2018, with kindness, perceptiveness and encouragement.
To Prof. Melanie Faizer – for your constant care, confidence, respect and advice invaluable to a stubborn, fledgling editor and for appreciating that editor’s work inspired by your support.
To Dr. Amber Roessner – for your time, passion and example; for your unceasing faith in me; for daring me to dream; for every word I ever write; and for my voice which you acknowledged when no one else would, myself included.
To you all – for more than words can say.
So, here’s to you, old Tennessee Journalist, and to my alma mater true. I give, without regret and with sincere ardor, all my thanks to you.
Editor-in-Chief at TNJN.com
University of Tennessee, December 2018