Samuel L. Adams Emerging Voices in Journalism Fund

Sam Adams: Life teacher, way maker, family man

October 20, 2021

I never had Professor Adams for class, and I didn't need to -- all his teaching was about life. I remember when my husband and I were trying to figure out where we would settle. Keith is a Kansas City Art Institute grad and a graphic artist, and it made sense for me to get a job and then move. We batted around all kinds of possibilities and eventually picked Rochester, N.Y., where Bob Giles (the Gannett professional) was editor.  Professor Adams understood the transient life of a journalist as he and Mrs. Elenora Adams had made all kinds of moves, sacrifices for his career and their family. Times were a tad different when I began my career in 1981 but seeing how they did things showed us that it could be done. 

As I wrote in a Kansas Reflector piece last year, Professor Adams opened many doors for me.  What student (HS or college) do you know has gotten to interview the Boy Scout president, chat with football great Gayle Sayers or meet journo gods like Acel Moore, William (Bill) Hilliard, Emory Green, Paul Brock? He also worked with Black students to get The Criterion off the ground. 

That is why the Samuel L. Adams Emerging Voices in Journalism Fund is so important and has received widespread support, most notably from Dean Ann Brill. While she did not know Professor Adams, his students and others have shared his impact and the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications wants to build on that legacy.

There were years that Professor Adams and I didn't talk, but when we did it was like no time had passed. I remember him coming to Dallas (I was working at The Dallas Morning News as was Vernon Smith j'79) for journo business, to check on a student he was mentoring but more importantly to see his grandson Kovel and go fishing. His visits always meant a "family reunion" and we would get together and bask in memories, food, and great conversation. My children came to see him as a just another one of their grandfathers as he would dote on them as he did Kovel.

A bunch of us went down to Waycross, Ga., to surprise Professor Adams for his 85th birthday. We had planned to find a hotel after the festivities, but Sam and Elenora demanded that we spend the night at their place and have breakfast with them the next morning. We spent most of the night reminiscing, laughing, talking, and hearing more life stories. We didn't get much sleep, but it was so worth it. Again, he poured his time into us.

My fondest last memory is when I told Professor Adams that I was coming to KU to teach. He had been ailing from Alzheimer's (and I had talked with him many times before that -- often with him recalling every little detail of my life!) but this day he was vintage Sam. We talked about what it meant to be an academic, how proud he and Elenora were of me, how KU wouldn't know what hit them (ha) when I arrived. When I got off the phone, I cried because I knew that whatever happened going forward that I was going to be OK -- Professor Adams had told me so. I can't tell you how much it means to have someone in your corner when you are in your teens and is still in your corner when you are in your 50s, who as a black journalist understands the ups and downs of this business, who didn't hesitate to use tough love when needed. I have been a lucky girl...

 

Patricia E. Weems Gaston

Lacy C. Haynes Professor

William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications

University of Kansas

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