URI journalism alumni to gather in honor of Linda Levin

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Reunion, tribute Oct. 24 to raise funds for journalism scholarship

KINGSTON, R.I. – October 1, 2013 – Linda Lotridge Levin began teaching journalism at the University of Rhode Island in the mid-1980s as computers had only just begun changing newsrooms across the country.

By the time she retired in June 2013 as chair of the Department of Journalism, smart phones, miniature cameras and social media had even more radically re-shaped the way journalists gather the news.

But during her almost three decades of service to URI, Levin held fast to a few basic principles: no matter the medium, great journalism was accurate, well written and compelling and great teaching consisted of pushing students hard, expecting excellence and staying engaged with them even when they failed.

Journalism alumni, members of the Department of Journalism and friends will gather Thursday, Oct. 24 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the University Club on the Kingston Campus for a reunion and tribute to Levin. The event will include heavy hors d’ oeuvres and a cash bar, and a portion of the registration price will support the Linda Lotridge Levin and Leonard I. Levin Scholarship. The cost is $25 per person. More details and registration are available here. Those who cannot attend may also donate by clicking here and, if you’d like to direct funds to the scholarship, check the box that says “I’d like to make a gift to an allocation not already listed” and type in Linda Lotridge Levin and Leonard I. Levin Scholarship. For more information, please contact Chris DiSano at (401) 874-4536 or cdisano@uri.edu.

Faculty and students have high praise for Levin’s work at URI.

“Long before experiential learning became trendy, Linda made sure students covered real events and those making news as part of their class work,” said John Pantalone, URI’s journalism department chair and longtime colleague of Levin’s.

“We certainly hope that alumni and friends of Linda’s will be able to attend this event to extend their thanks to her and contribute to the scholarship fund,” Pantalone said. “As the cost of higher education continues to rise, students need all the help they can get in achieving their goals. Making a contribution in Linda’s name helps carry on the traditions of strong journalism that she encouraged in her students for over 30 years.”

“Linda’s lectures were full of amusing anecdotes and lively stories, including her own experiences as a reporter. Her classes were never dull, and for those interested in the world of journalism, she was inspiring,” said Chris Keegan, a 2004 graduate of the URI journalism program, former reporter and assistant weekend editor at The Westerly Sun. After transferring from another university, Chris came to Rhode Island unsure about his future but Levin swiftly guided him into the University’s journalism program. “I wouldn’t be where I am today – the editor of the North East Independent – without Linda’s counsel,” said Keegan.

“Linda’s insight helped shape me as a journalism student at URI,” said Bill Tavares, a 1987 graduate of URI and now the media and community relations manager for the (WNBA) Connecticut Sun. “I cannot even begin to tell you how many times I fell back on the lessons I learned from Linda’s magazine writing class while I was working on features or columns at The Narragansett Times, Norwich Bulletin, or New London Day,” Tavares continued.

“Linda was not only knowledgeable and experienced, she also took a personal interest in her students in and out of the classroom,” said Shane Donaldson, 1999 graduate of the URI journalism program, veteran newspaper reporter and now a coordinator of sports communication in URI’s Department of Athletics. “She was tough and was unafraid to edit her students’ work heavily, but they appreciated her efforts to make them better. They wanted to impress her.”

Sarah Emmett, a 2004 graduate of the journalism program who previously worked at the Big East Conference and the Connecticut Sun WNBA team and is now a senior account executive at Twobolt, a Pawtucket marketing services and strategy firm, laughed when telling about her first encounter with Levin. “My first experience in the Journalism Department was Linda telling me I couldn’t be a part of it, and I remember I left her office crying. But I went back to her and told her I was an intern in the URI News Bureau, which I think gave me credibility. I think she liked that I challenged her because she decided to admit me.”

Emmett also reflected on her relationship with Linda during her later years in the journalism program. She said her most enjoyable class experience was covering the campaign of Howard Dean in 2004 in Levin’s presidential election class. “I was nervous because there were hardcore reporters who worked for the Cigar in that class, but she had great confidence in me. It was the most fun I had ever had. I followed Howard Dean around every day during his campaign before the New Hampshire primary. I continued covering him through the semester.”

Thanks to Levin, Emmett stays connected to URI and the journalism program. “She calls me regularly to ask if I can be on a panel or to talk with students. I am so flattered that this great teacher thinks I have something to offer students.”

Brenna McCabe, a publicist with the Legislative Press & Public Information Bureau at the Rhode Island Statehouse and a former editor-in-chief of the Good 5 Cent Cigar, said she and her classmates entered Levin’s classroom with a sense of excitement.

“Her extensive knowledge of media law, American presidents and the history of journalism kept us all on our toes, and she made us believe that she expected the same level of excellence from all of us,” said McCabe, a 2009 URI graduate.

“On a personal level, she helped me learn to be an independent thinker when I took the helm of The Good 5 Cent Cigar. That meant learning to make big decisions on my own and living with the consequences of those choices. That’s definitely a college experience that I continue to carry with me to this day.”

McCabe said Levin is simply a wonderful human being. “She always opened her heart – and even sometimes her home – to her students. Professor Levin always had a story about her treasured time working at The Providence Journal with her husband, as well as her stints in Russia and elsewhere. She wasn’t shy when speaking about her experiences as a female reporter in a once male-dominated sphere, and I think that stuck with all of us.”

Former students agreed that the scholarship she and her husband established, which is awarded to a deserving journalism student each year, is evidence of her interest in seeing students succeed. “Her enthusiasm and obvious passion for journalism were infectious,” said Tavares.

“This isn’t about Linda Levin,” said Donaldson. “As Linda always used to say, ‘It’s Journalism with a capital J’.”

Biographical Notes about Linda Lotridge Levin:

• Inducted into the New England Academy of Journalists in 1999

• President of ACCESS/R.I.

• Author of many works including The Making of FDR: The Story of Stephen T. Early, America’s First Modern Press Secretary

• Secretary and former president of the Rhode Island Press Association

• Inducted into the Rhode Island Journalism Hall of Fame in 2011

• Chair of the Department of Journalism at the University of Rhode Island from 2001-2011

This release was written by Sabrina Galiney, a URI Marketing and Communications intern and a textiles, fashion merchandising and design and public relations major.