Mary Benedict listening intently during the 1975 summer HSJI institute.
While January is National Mentoring Month, tomorrow is “national mentor day.”
Our friends at the Kick-Off Program freshman transition program recently launched a Facebook campaign to replace your profile photo with that of your mentor and write a little tribute on your wall. So, in keeping with the spirit of the occasion, a tribute to my mentor, Mary Benedict.
I met Mary in the summer of 1975 … my first summer attending the High School Journalism Institute at Indiana University where she served as the director for a number of years. It was the summer that I decided I would be a journalist, and she was instrumental in lighting the fire that got me there. And I know positively, that there are thousands of folks out there who can say the same thing about her.
I feel fortunate that I paid her a bit of a tribute in a column around 1992. I mentioned her influence on my life … and a few days later, she called to say thanks for the kind words. Like most folks who find themselves recognized as a mentor, she told me I was kind to remember her and asked what I’d been up to. When I read of her passing a few years ago, I was so glad I’d had the chance to say, “Thank you.”
Upon her passing, Jack Dvorak wrote a fitting tribute that I’d like to share. After you read it, you will totally understand my admiration.
ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR EMERITUS MARY I. BENEDICT
(May 24, 1922 – April 17, 2004)
Those who knew the late Associate Professor Emeritus Mary Benedict will not be surprised to learn about her wishes for the disposition of her ashes: She wanted them scattered on a private all-male golf club.
This story and many others were recounted during the celebration of life party held in Mary’s memory at The Garden (Beef & Boards Dinner Theater) on the northwest side of Indianapolis April 22, 2004. She died unexpectedly at her home April 17. She was 81.
Among the themes that surfaced during testimonials were Mary’s vivaciousness, her ability to lead, her competence as a journalism educator, her deep love of family and friends, her power to influence people positively, and her love of golf and scotch – not necessarily in that order.
She served on the School of Journalism faculty from 1972-1986, and during her 13 years as director of the High School Journalism Institute (HSJI), more than 6,000 high school students attended. She also taught courses and conducted workshops for future and current teachers of journalism. For several years she coordinated and taught the J200, Writing for Mass Media, course. She was also the primary public relations instructor. She gained respect of her students as a taskmaster, but always got high student evaluations.
As a specialist in the service area, she inaugurated Media Merit-thon, a statewide on-the-spot contest for high school journalism students. She also directed “On-Assignment” days on the IUB campus. These were one-day events that brought high school students and their teachers to campus in order to experience individually tailored educational opportunities in journalism. Hundreds of high school personnel came for these special meetings with Professor Benedict and the colleagues she recruited to meet with them.
Between 1950 and 1972, she was a teacher at both Washington and Arlington high schools in Indianapolis, where in 1967 she won National Journalism Teacher of the Year honors bestowed by the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund. She also won Indiana’s top teaching award for a journalism educator – the Ella Sengenberger Award presented by the Indiana High School Press Association of Franklin College in 1964.
After being graduated with a bachelor’s of science in journalism from Butler University in 1945, she worked for the Red Cross in the Pacific for three years. During college, Mary worked for radio station WIBC, and from 1965 to 1970, she did public relations part-time for the Indiana State Teachers Association. In 1953, she earned her M.S. degree from Butler.
Mary enjoyed a national reputation as a giant in journalism education. Aside from many teaching honors, she also took on leadership roles at the national level. In the early 1980s, she was head of the Secondary Education Division of the Association for Education in Journalism, an organization of university educators. She was also a board member for Quill and Scroll, international honorary society for high school journalists, and was president of both Indianapolis and Bloomington chapters of Women in Communications. The Journalism Education Association, primarily comprised of high school teachers, presented her a Pioneer Award for her long service to that organization.
The late Indiana Gov. Frank O’Bannon named her a Sagamore of the Wabash, and she was inducted into the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame, headquartered at DePauw University in Greencastle.
After her retirement from full-time teaching at IU-Bloomington, Mary taught part-time on the IUPUI campus and at Ivy Tech. Also, she volunteered as editor of The Garden publications for her church and was active with the Southeast Community Center, Habitat for Humanity, Fresh Start, the Indianapolis Press Club, the Society of Retired Executives and Money Makers Investment Club.
She loved to travel, and she wrote articles about her bike trips across France and other countries for The Indianapolis Star and other publications.
Survivors include her sister, Geraldine Hines; brother, Frank Benedict; seven nieces and nephews; and a host of great-nieces and nephews. Mary was preceded in death by a brother, Clement “Joe” Benedict, and a sister, Florence Benedict Cohen.
After the party and luncheon that followed her celebration of life in April 2004, at Mary’s request relatives and friends toasted her with some of her favorite scotch.
Mary Benedict was one of a kind. Like a good mentor, she provided guiding words that inspired me to do things that I had never before considered. She was a seeker of excellence and truth. So, raising that glass of scotch, here’s to Mary B. Thank you, again.