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Tom Buckner: Hall of Fame inductee

Community College Journalist -- Fall 2001

Published: Tuesday, February 20, 2001
Dr. Tom Buckner, who will be inducted into the Community College Journalism Association Hall of Fame on Oct. 26, may have retired from teaching journalism, but he is still very active in the field of communications.

He publishes the newsletter for the local Gideon camp, for example, and he heads the public relations committee at his church. In addition, he combines his love of family with his writing skills for his new hobby, writing about family history. "It's fun!" he says.

Buckner has always enjoyed working in the field of communications. His 15 years as journalism instructor and campus newspaper adviser at McLennan Community College in Waco, Texas, capped a career of work with newspapers.

Always active in journalism organizations at the state and national level, Buckner was given the Distinguished Newspaper Adviser of the Year award for two-year colleges by College Media Advisers in 1993. He served as president of the Texas Intercollegiate Press Association for a two-year term in the mid-1990s. He also participated in the activities of the Texas Press Association and the Public Relations Society of America.

Recognition came from other sources as well, including a Teaching Excellence Award presented at the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD) in 1999 and the Edith Fox King Award from the University Interscholastic League (UIL). The UIL cited his "distinguished contributions and outstanding devotion to scholastic journalism education in Texas." Buckner's honors also include receiving McLennan's nomination one year for the Piper Professor Award, a statewide competition for teaching excellence.

For the CCJA portion of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) convention in Boston in 1991, Buckner put together an excellent program that included an international panel for one session and representatives from Boston-area free-circulation newspapers for another. Three years after that, he hosted the Texas Community College Journalism Association (TCCJA) convention in Waco, and he was commended by that organization for the overall excellence of the event, which drew 228 participants.

Buckner's love of journalism dates back to the 1950s. In 1959, he began working for his family's newspaper, the San Marcos Record, in San Marcos, Texas, where he stayed until 1975. During that period of time, the publication became the top community newspaper in Texas in terms of circulation and awards, and Buckner worked his way up to the position of editor. He also became treasurer and a member of the board of the Texas Press Association. "I helped draft the bill that became the Texas Open Meetings Act," he says.

Along the way, Buckner found time to get an education, too. He earned his bachelor's degree from Southwest Texas State University and his master's degree and doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin.

And there's more. Buckner served in the Air Force from 1956 to 1959, and he later served in the Texas Air National Guard. After that, he was in the U.S. Air Force Reserve from 1970 to 1984, the year he began teaching at McLennan. Buckner edited his unit newspaper in the Reserve, and it was named the best in the Reserve in 1974. The following year, Buckner received the honor of being named the Outstanding Information Officer anywhere in the Reserve.

The opportunity to teach a course at Trinity University in San Antonio came along while Buckner was editor of the San Marcos paper, and he enjoyed teaching so much that he later went into it on a full-time basis at McLennan.

Buckner's hard work and dedication to journalism and education have had a continuing influence on those who have had the opportunity to work with him, but his friendliness, positive attitude and sense of humor have always made others feel comfortable around him.

How much he cares about others and about the field of communication shows when he expresses his interest in hearing from those he taught years ago. "A number of my former students still keep in touch," he says. "Seeing them grow as journalists and as solid citizens is the great reward of our profession."

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