The West Virginia University Reed College of Media recently paid tribute to four of its outstanding alumni at its Alumni and Donor Recognition Ceremony. The awards acknowledge outstanding professional achievements as well as commitment and service to the College of Media.

Acting Dean Diana Martinelli welcomed alumni, donors and guests to the ceremony, which was held at Waterfront Place Hotel on October 1, before presenting the awards.

Lauren O’Connor (BSJ, 2008) received the College’s Young Alumna Award, which recognizes an alumna (or alumnus) who has graduated in the last 10 years and who has shown the ability to succeed in his or her field. O’Connor is currently the director of marketing for GU Energy Labs where she is responsible for strategic planning, partnership and brand development, professional athlete and field marketing, market analysis, public relations and communication. Under her leadership, GU is becoming a recognized leader in disruptive marketing programs that engage consumers and address important environmental issues. Prior to joining GU, O’Connor consulted and spearheaded marketing efforts for small and large organizations including Hewlett-Packard (HP), where she led integrated global marketing programs directly out of college, influencing their use of social media platforms and analysis. While at HP, she earned the coveted HP Winner’s Circle Award, given to only 50 employees among its tens of thousands company-wide.

Scott Widmeyer (BSJ, 1974) won this year’s Friend of the College Award. This award recognizes individuals for their exemplary support and commitment to the Reed College of Media and was established in honor of Professor Emeritus Paul Atkins. Widmeyer founded Widmeyer Communications, a full-service communications and public affairs firm, in 1988. Over the course of 25 years, he grew the firm to become one of the largest midsize firms in the US. In July 2013, Widmeyer Communications was acquired by Finn Partners, one of the fastest growing PR firms in the United State. Prior to founding Widmeyer Communications, Widmeyer had successful careers in newspapers reporting and government. He held communications positions for five highly respected leaders — former President Jimmy Carter, former Vice President Walter Mondale, U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller, the late Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro and the late American Federation of Teachers President Albert Shanker. Widmeyer has established multiple scholarships at the College of Media, including one that benefits African American students and another that benefits first-generation West Virginians seeking a degree in journalism. To date, more than 20 students have benefited from these scholarships. In 2005, Widmeyer and his firm established the Widmeyer Communications Professorship in Public Relations, the first of its kind in the nation. In addition to his dedication to the College, Widmeyer is active in a number of civic and philanthropic causes from his base in New York and Washington.

Mike Tomasky (BSJ, 1982) was presented the P.I. Reed Achievement Award. Created in 1966, it is the most prestigious awarded bestowed upon alumni. The award recognized outstanding achievements in journalism or strategic communications. Tomasky is a columnist for The Daily Beast and the editor of Democracy: A Journal of Ideas, a quarterly journal of ideas and policy based in Washington, D.C. Before joining the Beast in May 2011, Tomasky was the editor-at-large for The Guardian’s U.S. editorial operation. From 2003 to 2006, he was the editor of The American Prospect, a Washington-based liberal opinion journal. While editor of the Prospect, Tomasky wrote a highly influential essay on the Democrats and the “common good,” which received front-page attention in The New York Times. He contributes regularly to The New York Review of Books, where he has written nearly 50 essays over the years on Washington politics. Before moving to Washington, D.C., in 2003, he lived for many years in New York, where he was a political columnist for New York magazine. He is the author of two books, “Left for Dead,” on the intellectual collapse of the American left after the 1960s, and “Hillary’s Turn,” about Clinton’s 2000 campaign, as well as the 2014 e-book “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!: The Beatles and America, Then and Now.” In addition to the aforementioned publications, his work has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Harper’s Magazine, the Nation, the New Republic, GQ, and others.

Alan Waters (BSJ, 1975) received the College’s Commitment to Service Award. The College established this award in honor of Dr. Ivan Pinnell, long-time College of Media faculty member and administrator who retired in May 2013. The Commitment to Service Award recognizes those who have shown great dedication and service to the College. Waters recently completed a 34-year career guiding students who produce WVU’s award-winning newspaper, The Daily Athenaeum (DA). Prior to joining the DA in 1981, Waters worked in the advertising department at the Times-West Virginian newspaper for seven years. At the DA, he served four years as production manager and in subsequent years as assistant general manager, interim general manager, general manager and director. Waters points to the growth of the paper’s annual budget and the size of the staff he supervised as the best indicators of his and the paper’s success. The early budget grew from $249,000 in 1981 to $563,000 in 1988 and broke into the million-dollar range at $1,300,000 in 2012. The paper’s staff has tripled from about 35 in the early 1980s to more than 100 in 2015. Waters is a board member of the West Virginia Press Association, past president of the West Virginia Press Services and belongs to a number of national media groups including College Media Advisers, College Media Business and Advertising Managers and the Society of Professional Journalists.

“With more than 6,000 alumni working in journalism and media professions today, it can be difficult selecting just one person for each of these honors,” said Acting Dean Diana Martinelli. “This year’s recipients truly demonstrate excellence in their fields as well as a commitment to giving back to their alma mater. In addition to these four, we are proud of all of our alumni and celebrate their successes.”

Honorees were selected by an internal committee based on an assessment of their contributions to the industry and the College of Media.



CONTACT: Kimberly Walker, WVU Reed College of Media

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