By Randy Evans
Iowa Newspaper Foundation president
It was 57 years ago when Gary Spurgeon, then the publisher of the Bloomfield Democrat, made an investment in the future of Iowa’s newspapers. I would like to think that investment has more than paid for itself.
The investment was a “scholarship” Gary provided to a kid who was going to become the editor of the student newspaper at Davis County High School. That kid wanted to attend the summer journalism workshop for high school students at the University of Iowa School of Journalism. But there was not money in the family budget for the cost of the week in a U of I dormitory, meals for the week, and the tuition for the workshop.
So, Gary Spurgeon wrote the check himself.
That kid was me. And that week at the University of Iowa convinced me that it just might be possible to become a newspaper guy.
That was 57 years ago, and I am convinced that my youthful desire to work for a newspaper would never have gotten off the ground had it not been for Gary’s “investment” of a few hundred dollars in a kid that he thought had the potential to become a capable member of the journalism profession.
Dozens of aspiring young journalists from around the Midwest spent the week in Iowa City, listening to experts talk about reporting, writing and photography. We had the opportunity to write stories and have them critiqued by the instructors. And I remember well the cloud I floated on when I received one of the top awards for a story I wrote.
That week in Iowa City propelled me into journalism school following high school. Gary nurtured my passion and enthusiasm, having me write occasional stories for the Bloomfield Democrat during the school year and keeping me busy full time on school breaks.
(Before Gary’s untimely death in 2013, I told him I wanted to close out my newspaper career right where it began, on the pages of the Bloomfield Democrat. I told him I wanted to write a column for him weekly, or weakly, depending on his judgment.)
I never forgot Gary’s life-changing generosity. I have tried to pay that generosity forward by providing a college scholarship each year to a graduate of my high school. This summer, I paid for a scholarship for an aspiring high school journalist to attend the 2023 summer media workshop at Drake University.
The Iowa Newspaper Foundation provides scholarships for this workshop and for promising student journalists. I encourage my publisher friends across Iowa to consider making an investment like Gary Spurgeon made back when my hair was black, not white.
Jana Shepherd will gladly tell you how you, too, can provide scholarships through the Iowa Newspaper Foundation. You, too, can help populate the pool of aspiring young journalists like Gary did.
And you can get an income tax deduction in the process.
By Randy Evans