I trust that every person reading this has that one person, that business mentor, that guiding light you always can depend upon for counsel and support. For me, that was Glenn Himebaugh, my journalism professor at Middle Tennessee State University. However, he didn’t know it at the time.
Nearly three decades after college, I did reconnect with Dr. Himebaugh and his wife, Ellen, visiting them in Murfreesboro and taking them to dinner when I was in town for meetings. To honor the man who meant so much for me, I founded an endowed scholarship for him in 2010, which started helping students a few years later.
While his passing last month at the age of 86 certainly saddened me, that sadness was tempered by the knowledge there remained no unfinished business between us. He knew exactly the influence he had had on my nearly 40-year career as a working journalist.
You don’t have to start a scholarship to honor the mentors in your life, but you do owe it to yourself (and your mentor) to make your feelings known.
Influence Well Beyond the Classroom
Like many people attending state university, I was first generation and worked the entirety of my college career — often full time. Consequently, I didn’t make those deep connections that I envy my wife for making during her undergraduate studies.
But during my journalism career, I often recalled my time on campus and the intensive and real-world training I’d received at MTSU. Dr. Himebaugh formed the core of my learning experience, teaching three of the foundational journalism classes, including feature writing and copyediting. He undoubtedly was the heart of the Mass Comm program, which he co-founded in 1971 and served for 40 years — the last 10 as professor emeritus. He taught those small, writing-intensive classes where students are slowly, lesson after lesson, paper after paper, molded into budding journalists and writers with bright prospects.
I remember his wry sense of humor and the washes of red ink he left on about every article I ever turned in. He was responsible for getting me involved in the campus chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, accompanying us to conventions in Mississippi and Atlanta, where an obviously inebriated Ted Turner delivered an incoherent keynote address. He also was indirectly responsible for one of my favorite personal stories, about how Mrs. Sarah Cannon (better known as country comedienne Minnie Pearl) insulted me in the backyard of the governor’s mansion in Nashville. But that’s a story for another day!
The Right Answer to a Big Question
After consulting the university foundation on the particulars of scholarship-founding, I invited the Himebaughs to lunch at a local Italian restaurant to ask his permission. I compare the experience to asking Marilynn to marry me, a joyful but stressful occasion filled with tears (mine) and much trepidation (also mine).
Somewhere through the main course, I brought up the subject, my voice breaking and a single tear falling from my left eye. When I popped the question to Dr. Himebaugh, he said, without hesitation, “As long as it’s not a memorial scholarship!”
Although Dr. Himebaugh is now in the newsroom in the sky, his legacy lives on in the thousands of students he taught over a long and distinguished career. It lives on in his scholarship that continues to grow and help fund the dreams of future journalists. But, per his wishes, the scholarship will never be “memorial.”
To support future generations of journalists, please consider a donation to the Dr. Glenn Himebaugh Scholarship at MTSU.