September 22nd, 2012
My excellent SPJ weekend, reviving a chapter where it all began
By John Ensslin, 2011-12 SPJ President
In 2009, when SPJ celebrated its centennial at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., I was surprised to learn that we had no student chapter there.
This struck me as odd. After all, as many of you know, DePauw is where SPJ first started as the Sigma Delta Chi fraternity in 1909.
Odd, but perhaps understandable. While DePauw has produced some great journalists over the years, it does not have a stand-alone journalism department.
There are some journalism courses and the campus has a student newspaper, radio and televison station. Yet from what I’ve been able to gather, the campus has not had an SPJ chapter in nearly 15 years.
That may be about to change.
It started almost by accident.
When I started working at The Record in Bergen County, N.J. last year, I became friends with a business reporter named Andrew Tangel.
Andrew is a 2003 DePauw graduate, and one of his professors was Ernie Ford Jr., the former SPJ national president.
When Ernie died last year, Andrew and I got to talking about my hope that someday we could reestablish a chapter at DePauw.
As luck would have it, Andrew was heading back to Greencastle as in instructor in a week-long seminar at DePauw. Over lunch, I asked if he would do me a favor and talk up SPJ among the students he met.
One of those students was Chase Hall, a managing editor at the student newspaper. Chase joined SPJ and offered to talk with his fellow students about reviving the chapter.
Andrew also put me in touch with Mark Tatge, an SPJ member from Chicago who just happened to be teaching multimedia journalism at DePauw as part of a three-year visiting professorship.
Mark agreed to serve as the fledgling chapter’s faculty advisor. A plan started to come together.
Fast forward to this past weekend when — armed with a box of props from SPJ headquarters — I traveled the beautiful country roads that lead to DePauw.
With help from Mark and Chase, we held a shortened version of the original Sigma Delta Chi initiation ceremony.
We inducted 10 student members that night in Meherry Hall, the same room where Sigma Delta Chi started in 1909 with … 10 students.
The next morning, members gathered for their first organizational meeting.
I’m sure the group will face challenges in the months ahead. But I have a good feeling about these students. I think they have the ability to revive a chapter in the heart of where SPJ began.
Meanwhile, if any DePauw alumni or others would like to help with this effort, please feel free to contact Chase at firstname.lastname@example.org.