Fred Walker Jr. · 2007
Reprinted from the Trailblazer Feb. 23, 1996
Born in Loogootee, Nov. 13, 1937, Fred Walker, Jr., the founding director of the Vincennes University Journalism Program and publisher of The Trailblazer, Vincennes University’s weekly student newspaper, retired from the University in May 1996 after 32 years — 34 counting his time as a student.
Prof. Fred Walker Jr., VU ’57, established the Journalism Program in August 1964, assuming at the same time operational authority over the newspaper. He was promoted to full professor of journalism in April 1971.
Walker was inducted into the National Community College Journalism Association Hall of Fame Aug. 13, 1994, in Atlanta. He received the University’s Blue and Gold Cord Award for leadership and service in 1969 and is the senior holder of the Cord Award among its annual recipients still affiliated with the University. His other university-wide honors include the annual Exemplary Service Award awarded in 1992, and, in 1990, the Big Apple Award (for positive influences on students over a period of time), the latter presented each Homecoming Weekend.
In addition to the news-editorial curriculum that has existed since the inception of the Journalism Program, Walker designed the program’s print media advertising curriculum that was approved to accept students with the opening of the 1993-94 school year. Moreover, with authorization from Dr. Phillip M. Summers, president of the university, Walker initiated the computerization of the Journalism Laboratory with the acquisition of a multi-station Macintosh desktop publishing system in late 1989.
The program’s laboratory newspaper, The Trailblazer, has received the national Associated Collegiate Press’ highest rating, All-American, for 52 semesters, from the 1965-66 through the 1994-95 school years, as well as 196 citations, including 54 first place awards, in the annual Indiana Collegiate Press Association Newspaper Contest.
The Trailblazer, founded in 1923, was published sporadically until the 1956-57 school year, when Walker was its editor and 18 issues were published, the most ever in one school year to that time. The student newspaper was converted to a weekly schedule beginning with its Sept. 22, 1966 issue. With its Nov. 20, 1992, issue, the student newspaper opened its columns to a standard complement of commercial (retail) and classified (personal) advertising.
Walker was designated the National Distinguished Two-Year College Newspaper Adviser of 1969 by the National Council of College Publications Advisers (now College Media Advisers, Inc.). His work was recognized that year, too, by a citation issued by the Washington (Ind.) High School Quill and Scroll Society. Further, he was charter president of the National Community College Journalism Association from 1968 to 1969 and was CCJA’s first executive secretary-treasurer from 1970 to 1973.
Walker began his involvement in journalism with a just-out-of-Loogootee (Ind.) St. John’s High School job with the weekly newspaper, the Loogootee Tribune, in his native community, and the weekly Shoals (Ind.) News, both under single ownership at that time.
He was graduated from VU in 1957 with an Associate in Science degree and received the Outstanding Student in Journalism Award. He was editor of The Trailblazer throughout the 1956-57 school year after working for the paper as a general assignment reporter and columnist during the 1955-56 school year. During his student days here, Walker was vice president of the Student Senate and a varsity (basketball) cheerleader (as he had been all four years in high school).
He earned Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees in journalism at Indiana University, Bloomington, and was a reporter and copy editor for the Evansville (Ind.) Press, the Fort Wayne (Ind.) News-Sentinel, and the Seymour (Ind.) Tribune. He taught journalism, history and political science at Washington Catholic High School before his appointment to the Vincennes faculty. In 1984, the Loogootee Schools Alumni Association bestowed on Walker its annual Outstanding Alumni Award.
During his undergraduate studentship at IU, he was editor, managing editor and night editor of the student newspaper, the Indiana Daily Student; president of the then Men’s Residence Center; and was chosen a life member of the Student Foundation. Walker received a Dow Jones & Co. fellowship for postgraduate study at IU in 1965 and, in 1967, merited another Dow Jones fellowship to study in a seminar program for community college journalism educators at the University of Texas at Austin. Dow Jones renewed the latter fellowship in 1968 to underwrite Walker’s appointment as associate director of the second community college journalism seminar at UT.
Through the years, Walker has made presentations concerning community college journalism education during conventions at such sites as American University, Washington, D.C.; Eastern Illinois University, Charleston; the University of California at Berkeley; the University of Colorado, Boulder; the University of Kansas, Lawrence; and the University of South Carolina, Columbia.
Among his non-journalism activities, Walker was the author of the University’s Pass-Fail Plan in 1972 and served several terms as a member of the University Council (which was superseded in 1993 by the formation of the Professional Staff Congress, Support Staff Council, and University Senate). For 19 years until last school year, he was chairman of the Blue and Gold Cord Student Awards Committee, and from 1987 through 1994, he chaired the Humanities Division’s Annual Outstanding Recent Alumni Award Committee.
Walker was 26 years old when Dr. Isaac K. Beckes, president of VU from 1950 to 1980, assigned to him the primary responsibility for journalism education at the school. Two measures of his longevity at Vincennes University include this: By the close of spring semester, 1996, he had appointed 58 editors of The Trailblazer and, including the issues of his own editorship, presided over the publication of 888 issues of the newspaper.