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By Napoleon Johnson
Houston Community College
It couldn't happen to a nicer guy.
Dr. Tom Buckner served as president of the Community College Journalism Association (CCJA) in 1992 and was inducted into the association's Hall of Fame on Oct. 26 at the 80th ACP/CMA annual convention in New Orleans.
Retired now, Buckner served as journalism instructor and campus newspaper adviser at McLennan Community College in Waco, Texas, for 15 years.
He retired in 1999, but what a legacy of accomplishment he leaves behind.
Active in journalism associations at the state and national level, he was recognized in 1993 by College Media Advisers, which presented him with the Distinguished Newspaper Adviser of the Year Award for two-year colleges.
He served as president of the Texas Intercollegiate Press Advisers Association (TIPAA) in the mid-90's and [the Waco chapter of] the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).
As outlined in an article on Buckner's career, by Dr. John Neal in the Community College Journalist (Spring/Summer 2000), "Recognition came from other sources, too, including a Teaching Excellence Award presented at the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development conference in 1999 and the Edith Fox King Award from Texas's University Interscholastic League (UIL).
"The UIL cited his distinguished contributions and outstanding devotion to scholastic journalism education in Texas. Buckner's honors also include having received McLennan [Community College's] nomination for the Piper Professor Award, a state competition for teaching excellence.
"He put together especially excellent programs for the CCJA portion of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication [AEJMC] convention in Boston in 1991, including an international panel for one session and representatives from Boston-area, free-circulation newspapers for another. Three years after that [Buckner] hosted the Texas Community College Journalism Association convention in Waco, and he was commended by that organization for the overall excellence of the event, which drew 228 participants.
"Buckner's journalism career goes back to 1959, when he began working for his family's newspaper, the San Marcos Record, in San Marcos, Texas, where he stayed until 1975. As the years passed, the paper became the top community newspaper in Texas in terms of circulation and awards, and he worked his way up to editor. Buckner also became a member of the board and treasurer of the Texas Press Association. "I helped draft the bill that became the Texas Open Meetings Act," he said.
Buckner received his bachelor's degree from Southwest Texas State University and his master's degree and doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin.
"The opportunity to teach a course at Trinity University in San Antonio came along while Buckner was editor of the San Marcos Record, and he enjoyed it so much he later went into teaching on a full-time basis at McLennan."
Buckner's credentials for eligibility for nomination to the CCJA Hall of Fame are impeccable, including having been a member or chair of committees in journalism associations at local, state and national levels; having published numerous articles and papers; having chaired workshops, hosted and helped at conferences, and, generally, having been a local, regional and national leader in community college journalism.
But these things we've listed about Buckner's professional and academic resume tell only part of his story.
And as we said when we started this article, "It couldn't happen to a nicer guy."
- Consider the following from a former student: "Dr. Buckner was a patient instructor, even when his students didn't necessarily deserve his patience . . . [He] also appreciated the uniqueness of each pupil, and if one had a special need, then he made sure he accommodated it. I know this because I've worn a hearing aid since I contracted spinal meningitis at age 5. Dr. Buckner went out of his way to seat me near him and speak in loud and clear tones so that I could understand without having to strain." -- Patrick M. Walker, reporter, The Bond Buyer – Dallas bureau
- "I have known Tom since he left the newspaper business to teach at McLennan County Community College. During all those years, he has been a reliable and faithful colleague, readily sharing his wisdom and insights to help me and countless other student publications advisers solve the problems that arise in this business . . . Most important is the Tom Buckner who always answers every frantic phone call with wise counsel, good humor and solid friendship that most endears him to those of us privileged to work with him in Texas community college journalism." – Linda K. Zeigler, Tyler Junior College
- "He was the first adviser to befriend me when I joined TIPA [Texas Intercollegiate Press Association] years ago. He served as a mentor to me as a newcomer to Texas collegiate journalism. I knew Tom always would have the answer for any question I might have." -- Larry C. Thompson, Northeast Texas Community College
- "I can remember the first time I attended a TCCJA convention. Tom was one of the first to walk up to me and introduce himself and welcome me into the "family." Comments made by both students and colleagues prove that Tom considers his students and colleagues as part of his family. Whether it's advice or actions, he never hesitates to offer assistance." – Brenda Allums, Panola College
- "I relish in the opportunity to join others in recommending Tom Buckner for the CCJA Hall of Fame. He is the most distinguished Texas journalism instructor in terms of establishing a presence on the national level for two-year colleges." – Bob Templeton, Midland College
- "I could list more accomplishments, but I want to emphasize instead the personal qualities . . . I believe make Tom worthy of this honor. Tom is an intelligent, kind, dependable, hard-working, optimistic person who has been an inspiration to journalism teachers and students, as well as to professional journalists. During the 15 years Tom taught at McLennan, I had the opportunity to see him interact with his students at journalism conventions, and I observed that his low-key but upbeat approach made a wonderful impression on them and motivated them to succeed. "I, too, looked up to Tom. He always seemed relaxed, but he accomplished a great deal. He didn't seem competitive, but he did excellent work. He cared about his students and his colleagues . . . ." – John Neal, Brookhaven College