My old friend and former employer when I was at Sport and Fitness Publishing, John Winsor, recently gave the commencement address at the University of Colorado journalism school. The subject was “Dare to Fail,” and the talk was interesting in terms of the world that both new and longtime journalist face.
John’s speech made me remember that I, along with my buddy Andrew Lahana, actually founded the tradition of a J-school graduation ceremony at CU.
It’s actually an amusing story . . . Our friends in the business school had their own commencement and there was no such tradition in the J-school. We thought we’d show them how to hold a graduation — we’d get Jimmy Buffett to give our commencement address in Mackey Hall. Now there was someone who’d really done something with his journalism degree! He’d just played a concert that semester in the new CU Events Center and so we figured no problem getting him to speak to our graduating class. So we went through the channels, sent letters, made phone calls, etc. . . . and we waited. And waited.
Finally one day Russ Shain, who was the J-school dean, called us into his office and brought up that we had the entire class looking forward to this ceremony, but we had no speaker lined up. Andrew and I had never considered a back-up plan. The reality, Russ said, is that Jimmy Buffett was not coming. But Russ had connections, and so soon it was announced that WIlliam Hornby, who was some major figure at the Denver Post at the time, would be giving the commencement address.
Still, Andrew and I had to give the introduction, which I wrote and peppered with quotes from Buffett songs. Nobody got it, but we had dared to fail and today the J-school still holds a ceremony each semester. Twenty-seven years later I have former employers giving the commencement address.