Journalism and Sports Program Director Hits Career Grand Slam With Two Awards In May

Date Released: May 26, 2017

By D. Aileen Dodd

Ron Thomas - Professor of the Year 2017

Ron Thomas, the director of the Morehouse College Journalism and Sports Program, hit a career grand slam in May. He won a national honor for his work as a veteran journalist and mentor of budding reporters, and a Morehouse honor for his prowess in the classroom.

The recognitions were announced during Commencement Week giving him as much to celebrate as Morehouse’s more than 300 graduates.

On May 19, Thomas learned that he would receive the National Association of Black Journalists’ elite “Legacy Award” for trailblazing in journalism. Four days later, he was named Morehouse’s first “Professor of the Year.”

“I can’t imagine a week that could make me feel more proud than this one,” Thomas said. “No one knows the quality of your work better than your peers. So, when they honor you once, much less twice, it gives you a special feeling that can’t be matched.”

Thomas will travel to NABJ’s Annual Convention and Career Fair in New Orleans to receive his Legacy Award in August. The convention will be held from Aug. 9-13. 

"Ron Thomas is the perfect combination of reporter, copy editor, educator and mentor,” NABJ President Sarah Glover said in announcing his Legacy Award. “Through his work, (he) has taken years of experience and shares it with the students at Morehouse and beyond." 

Thomas is a nationally renowned sports reporter with more than 34 years of experience working at prominent newspapers, including the San Francisco Chronicle and USA Today. He was hired by Morehouse College in 2007 to begin its first journalism program. It is one of the few programs in the nation that also has a sports emphasis.

Under his leadership, Morehouse’s Journalism and Sports Program has received more than $2 million in grants and other donations to develop its academic offerings, which prepare students for internships and careers in print, online, and broadcast media. At least 23 of the students who have taken a class taught by Thomas, or have worked under his advisement at Morehouse’s award-winning school newspaper, have gone on to earn a master’s degree in journalism or a sports-related field. Fifty others are working in journalism, he said.

His dedication to launching the careers of his students earned Thomas Morehouse College’s first “Professor of the Year Award.” The recognition was developed by the selection committee that chooses the recipient for the annual Vulcan Award for Teaching Excellence.

Ron Thomas - Professor of the Year Award 2017

Thomas, who also serves as a faculty representative on the Morehouse Board of Trustees, said the 2016-17 academic year was the “most successful” period in the journalism program’s existence at Morehouse. With the help of other journalism professors David Dennis, Mikki Harris, and Omar Harbison, the program’s achievements included: 

  • Four student reporters joined Thomas in covering the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. Three Maroon Tiger reporters also covered the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner in April.
  • The “Rising Stars in the Media” Founder’s Week program brought back four former Journalism and Sports students to tell current students about their experiences as professional journalists. One of the presenters, Jordan Jones ’14, later was named a Fulbright Scholar. 
  • “A Night With Sir Charles” was held in February to formally thank NBA figure Charles Barkley for donating $1 million to the journalism program in 2015. His close friend, Spike Lee, co-founded the program with the late journalist Ralph Wiley and raised $1 million to start it.
  • Isaiah Smalls, a journalism minor, was one of six HBCU students to be named a Rhoden Fellow. For the next year, he will be mentored and trained by ESPN’s Bill Rhoden, the distinguished sports columnist and author. 
  • Journalism students contributed articles and photographs to the 2017 Cuba edition of The Maroon Tiger school newspaper, chronicling the second Morehouse-sponsored trip to Cuba.
  • Senior Bundrea Conway received a $1,000 scholarship from the National Newspaper Publishers Association of black newspaper publishers for excelling at videography. Morehouse senior Ayron Lewallen and Spelman’s Kelsey Jones received $15,000 in scholarships and stipends, along with eight-week internships at black newspapers, as “Discover the Unexpected” fellows sponsored by NNPA and Chevrolet.

Last Modified: June 8, 2017, 13:06 PM, by: Synera Shelton

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