The West Virginia University P.I. Reed School of Journalism recently paid tribute to four of its outstanding alumni at its Alumni and Donor Recognition Ceremony. Formerly awarded by the School’s Alumni Association, the awards recognize outstanding professional achievements as well as commitment and service to the School of Journalism.

WVU President Jim Clements welcomed guests and joined School of Journalism Dean Maryanne Reed in honoring the award recipients.

Paige Lavender (BSJ, 2011) received the School’s Young Alumnus Award, which recognizes an alum who has demonstrated great professional promise in a short amount of time. The award is given to a graduate working in the field 10 years or less. Lavender, currently the Senior Politics Editor at The Huffington Post, began working there as an associate politics editor shortly after graduation. She covers Congress, the president and political news around the nation.

John Walls (BSJ, 1978) won this year’s Friends of the School Award. This award recognizes individuals who demonstrate exemplary support and commitment to the School of Journalism through philanthropy, engagement or both. It was established in honor of Professor Emeritus Paul Atkins. Walls is currently the vice president of public affairs for CTIA – The Wireless Association where he has worked since 2004. Prior to his current position, he was an award-winning television news and sports anchor for 25 years. In addition, Walls has been a member of the School’s Visiting Committee since 2011 and currently serves as Committee Chair. He also helped to fund the School’s Mobile Main Street project with a gift through CTIA and to promote the project on a national level. He and his wife Cindy recently endowed a career development fund in the School of Journalism.

Joe Steranka (BSJ, 1979) was presented the P.I. Reed Achievement Award. Steranka spent 34 years working in professional sports business and communications – the last seven of which he served as chief executive officer of the PGA of America. Steranka is a member of the School’s Visiting Committee and the founder of the George Esper International Study Abroad fund. He supports the “Children’s Healthcare Charities” of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., and chairs the board of the Folds of Honor Foundation, an organization that provides assistance to the families of wounded and fallen veterans. Steranka has won many awards and is one of just 11 people in the PGA’s history to have been awarded the PGA’s Honorary Membership.

Paul Atkins (BSJ, 1949) received the Commitment to Service Award. The School established this new award in honor of Dr. Ivan Pinnell, long-time School of Journalism faculty member and administrator who retired in May 2013. The Commitment to Service Award recognizes those who have shown great dedication and service to the School. During his 33 years teaching in the School of Journalism, Atkins was promoted to assistant professor, then associate professor and then full professor before he retired in 1986. During his tenure, he taught and influenced hundreds of journalism students, many of whom went on to highly successful professional careers and who give him credit for instilling in them the importance of “getting it right.”

“The School of Journalism has more than 6,000 alumni working in journalism and media professions today, and it’s an honor to recognize those individuals who demonstrate excellence in their fields as well as a commitment to giving back to their alma mater,” Reed said. “We’re proud of all of our graduates and appreciate the legacy they create for future generations.”

Honorees were selected by an internal committee based on an assessment of their contributions to the industry and the School of Journalism.



CONTACT: Kimberly Walker, School of Journalism

Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.