Honoring and remembering Jim Crook

Editor’s Note: Jim Crook, distinguished journalism educator and director emeritus of the School of Journalism and Electronic Media, died April 30.

He co-founded the Front Page Follies directed it for a number of years. He also served as president of ETSPJ.

The Front Page Foundation is accepting donations in his honor.

Catherine Luther, director of the School of Journalism and Electronic Media at the University of Tennessee and another former ETSPJ president, was asked to speak about Crook at the Golden Press Card Awards. She said:

Thank you for this opportunity to say a few words about our friend and my former colleague, Dr. James Crook. Jim was actually my boss for one year as he served as interim director of the School of Journalism and Electronic Media. It was period during which the School of Journalism and the Department of Broadcasting had just merged to form the School of Journalism and Electronic Media and so as interim director, Jim was facing a group of faculty members who were just getting to know each other and were still trying adjust to their new combined program.

I was an Assistant Professor at that time and quietly observed how Jim was skillfully able to calm the underlying tensions that existed between the two groups that represented their former units. I admired the fact that Jim was able to be supportive, kind, but also stern when situations called for it. It was during circumstances when Jim perceived unfairness or spitefulness, that he was able to adeptly convey to those involved that such behavior would not be tolerated. I recall often thinking – Now that is a true leader.

I told a few of my colleagues who knew Jim that I would be speaking about him at this event and asked if there were any thoughts about Jim that they wanted me to share with you all. Here are some of the thoughts that were expressed …

One of my senior colleagues wrote: “I’ll always remember Jim as a man I never saw angry or discombobulated–and goodness knows we gave him plenty of reasons to collapse in fury and frustration.”

A former graduate student of Jim’s who is now one of my colleagues wrote that 21 years after taking Jim’s graduate course that focused on how to be an effective teacher, she is still practices what he taught her, especially the “importance of teachers taking the time to meet with students outside of class.”

Another colleague was in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Iowa when Jim was inducted into that school’s hall of fame.

She shared: “Jim was incredibly gracious at the induction ceremony and even sang — I’m sure he’s the only Hall of Fame member to have done so.”

Yet another one of my colleagues described Jim as: “My mentor, my boss and my friend” He goes on to write, “Jim was born and raised and educated in lowa, and he took lowa with him when he and Diane moved to Knoxville. He was a true Renaissance man: a gentleman, a family man, a scholar, a musician and an actor.”

I’ve heard more than once the word “gentle” used to describe Dr. Crook. I would agree with that characterization, but would add that along with that gentleness, Jim held a bold spirit that was always ready to take on the world without trepidation.

I feel honored to have had the opportunity to work for Jim. Jim was a scholar and a teacher who was also an extremely talented and caring person who had such a huge impact on many of his students, colleagues, and friends.

Thank you.