Ohio Journalist

Director Hodson leaves big shoes to fill

Sarah Buelterman

(May 17, 2010) — When it comes to Ohio University pride, it is safe to say that E.W. Scripps School of Journalism director Tom Hodson bleeds green. And, although Hodson announced in April that he will be stepping down from his role as director, he will – as a proud Bobcat – remain entwined with the university and the region.

Hodson graduated from OU in 1970 with a Bachelor of Science in Journalism. He continued his academic studies at The Ohio State University, where he earned a juris doctorate law degree.

He returned to Southeastern Ohio to serve as a trial lawyer in both the municipal and common pleas courts.

Hodson also spent a year serving as a judicial fellow under United States Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

“It was an interesting experience,” Hodson said. “He and I probably didn’t agree on anything from a legal perspective, but he was a fascinating man. He was one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, and we got along quite well as far as any kind of management issues.”

Home sweet home
Hodson returned to his roots at OU in 1987 to serve as an adjunct faculty member in the School of Journalism and the School of Communication Studies.

“I enjoyed it a lot,” Hodson said, “and it worked well with my judicial duties because I would teach people how to cover courts and how to cover government. And I taught public affairs reporting during that period of time.”

In 2001 he decided to leave his law practice to become the head of the mass media program at Marietta College.

Nearly two years later, Hodson received an unexpected phone call from then-OU Dean Kathy Krendl offering him the possibility of the position of a lifetime.

“I was actually giving a speech at the National Judicial College in Reno, Nev., when she tracked me down to ask if I would even consider it,” Hodson said. “I was excited. I went from a program at Marietta College that was a very nice program, but we had about 100 students, to come to [Scripps] where, at that time, we had about 850 students. Now we have close to 1,000 students, so we’ve grown substantially during that period of time. It was quite a jump.”

Hodson was the first OU undergraduate alumnus to become director of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.

“When I had the opportunity to come back here in July of 2003,” Hodson said, “it was sort of like the icing on the cake to come full circle from being a student here to being a director here. It was a real honor.”

Hodson’s experience as an OU student influenced many of the decisions he made as director. As an undergraduate student, he recognized the importance of a quality faculty, so as director he set out to hire the best. And, his understanding of OU student life prompted him to spend a significant amount of time raising money for scholarships and student awards.

“I pretty much lived at The Post,” Hodson said. “I was the news editor one year, associate editor my senior year and I was a staff writer. [The staff] would spend between 60 and 80 hours at The Post every week. The first contract I ever negotiated was at The Post, before I ever went to law school, so it has life-long benefits.” Hodson said he remains, 47 years later, close friends with many of the people he worked with at the paper.

Hodson’s accumulation of accomplishments over the last seven years serve as a true reflection of his impact on the journalism program. He hired 12 new faculty members during his time as director, including eight in the past three years alone. He has also raised millions of dollars for scholarships, allowing Scripps to recruit top students from all over the country.

But, Hodson is especially proud of a recent triumph: the passing of the school’s new curriculum that will go into place for the university’s 2012 transition from quarters to semesters.

“It’s modern and sleek,” Hodson said. “It will allow for a lot of cross-disciplinary work.”

New path ahead
Hodson formally announced April 7 that he will be stepping down from his position in June in order to devote more time to his family. He will become a full-time faculty member. Associate director Dr. Robert Stewart will succeed him.

“[Stewart] is a really good people person, and he gets along with everyone,” Hodson said. “He has a great personality that’s even-tempered. He knows the school because he served as the associate director. In fact, he’s the first associate director to become director.”

When Hodson began his term as director in 2003, his work ethic and demeanor provided the momentum necessary to inspire and mobilize a journalism faculty that was seemingly at a standstill.

“He was always the first to arrive and often the very last to leave, so he’s set the bar very high for all of us who worked with him,” said colleague Dr. Robert Stewart, the assistant director of the school. “No one can come in and do a halfway decent job here working next to Tom because that’s not acceptable.”

Stewart discusses working as Tom Hodson’s colleague and the goals he has as the next director of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.

Name Index