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Memphis Community Mourns Loss of ALSAC’s David McKee

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital said David L. McKee, longtime chief operating officer at ALSAC, St. Jude’s fundraising arm, died in a car accident in the Memphis area Friday, August 17.

McKee over the past 35 years served in a variety of leadership roles at ALSAC, including CEO, chief operation officer and senior executive vice president.

During a February 2011 interview, McKee told me about his very first day on the job in December 1977, when he arrived at his regional office in Atlanta to find the building engulfed in flames, sparked by a fire at a neighboring deli. He called his wife and told her he hoped he’d made the right decision. St. Jude at that time did not have the brand reputation it has today, but McKee believed strongly in founder Danny Thomas’ life-saving mission of treating children with cancer and other catastrophic illnesses regardless of a family’s ability to pay.

McKee was instrumental in the creation of a number of fundraising programs and initiatives, including the St. Jude Country Cares radio program. During our interview last year, McKee commented on the Country Cares radio-thon, saying, “We made an attempt at it and the first year it failed. But it made me just all the more determined, and $400 million dollars later I was right. And it made me wonder what would’ve ever happened if I didn’t stick to it, believed in it and made it happen.”

McKee, who helped lead the his organization to record growth and its current status as the second largest health care charity, was named recipient of the 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award by Fundraising Success magazine.

In a statement Saturday, ALSAC CEO Rick Shadyac said, “David McKee was so much more than one of the world’s great philanthropic leaders. He was a dear friend and mentor to me and many others who worked with him during his 35 year career at ALSAC. He also was a passionate advocate for the patients of St. Jude and for children everywhere who have benefitted from our work. We have lost one of the icons of our organization and his family is in our hearts and prayers.”

My work frequently takes me down the street to St. Jude to cover events, where it was always a pleasure to see Mr. McKee’s smiling face as he spoke with children and their families. There’s no doubt he was a phenomenal fundraiser, gifted with great business sense. But McKee was also a warm, kind, accessible human being, one who will be missed by so many.

In an e-mail Saturday, Angela Richmond, director of Public Relations for ALSAC/St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, said the entire staff is “so heartbroken by the news.”

ALSAC/St. Jude said details about funeral arrangements will be made public once they are finalized.

Actress Diane Keaton to Speak at Methodist Cancer Center Fundraiser

Methodist Healthcare Foundation has announced Academy Award-winning actress Diane Keaton will serve as the keynote speaker at its annual Methodist Cancer Center Luncheon Friday, Nov. 16, at The Peabody Hotel in Downtown Memphis.

Keaton will reflect on her life, values and upbringing, as well as her journey to becoming a successful actress. She’ll share her thoughts on gender and aging in Hollywood and work-family balance.

Keaton has appeared in over 50 films, including “The Godfathertrilogy, “Annie Hall” and “The First Wives Club.”

Last year’s luncheon speaker was Academy Award-winning actor Michael Douglas, and previous speakers include actresses Julie Andrews and Kathy Bates.

Individual tickets start at $125 and a table of ten starts at $1,250. Tickets go on sale August 10 and can be purchased online.

Luncheon proceeds will benefit the Methodist Cancer Center.

SPJ President Expresses Concern Over Daily Helmsman Budget Cuts

John Ensslin, president of the Society of Professional Journalists, has expressed his concern about budget cuts to The Daily Helmsman, the University of Memphis’ student newspaper.

The Society of Professional Journalists promotes the free flow of information, works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists, and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press.

In an August 6 letter sent to University of Memphis president Shirley Raines, Ensslin addressed reports that The Daily Helmsman is one of many organizations to receive less money from the university, but only one of two to lose a third of its funding.

Ensslin calls the newspaper an “excellent training ground for young journalists,” highlighting its coverage of controversial topics and its exceptional student editor.

He also noted that the allocations committee seemed more concerned by the content in the paper, rather than its impact on the institution’s budget, saying, “If that is the case, such a decision could be viewed as a First Amendment violation.”

 

Here’s the letter in its entirety:

Dear President Raines,

My name is John Ensslin. I am president of the Society of Professional Journalists, the nation’s oldest, largest and broadest-based journalism advocacy organization with 8,000 members across the country, including Memphis.

I am writing to express our profound dismay and concern over reports of a substantial funding cut to the operating budget of your campus newspaper as well as some of the controversy that preceded those cuts.

Here’s our gripe: in The Helmsman you have a student newspaper that had been an excellent training ground for young journalists. And yet this funding cut sends a chilling, mixed message to the journalism students and faculty.

In my role as SPJ president, I read a fair amount of student newspapers from around the country. I can tell you that The Helmsman stands out as a paper that produces a consistently high level of journalism, especially when it comes to enterprise and watchdog reporting that seeks to hold institutions and elected officials accountable.

In particular, the paper’s coverage of an alleged sex assault earlier this year involving a registered sex offender was outstanding. The paper also raised difficult but legitimate questions as to whether notice of this incident should have been provided to the campus community in a more timely manner.

I also was impressed by the paper’s reporting on a story in 2010 in which it described how student activity fees were being used to pay tuition costs for members of the student government association and student activities council.

That set of stories won two national awards as well as a regional SPJ award.

I’m sure there are instances when staff at The Helmsman have made mistakes in judgment in their reporting and writing. However, they are student journalists learning their craft which sometimes means learning from their mistakes.

Overall though, I am struck by the high caliber of work these young journalists are doing. In particular, I’m impressed with the work of The Helmsman’s editor Chelsea Boozer.

In Chelsea, I see a promising young journalist whom your university will someday be proud to call a graduate. I can see what prompted Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center to remark:

“She may well be the best reporter working in college media today. She is Mike Wallace with molasses syrup, disarming, but deadly, and she is going to be a Mike Wallace-sized star.”

We journalists are a skeptical lot. We question authority. We ask seemingly impertinent questions. We hold public figures accountable. We fight for the public’s right to know so that people can make the kind of informed decisions that are vital in a democracy.

Chelsea displays all these traits and then some. Here’s an example of the kind of journalist she is and promises to become: On Labor Day weekend, while many of her peers will be at the beach or some such place enjoying the end of the summer,

Chelsea has made plans to be one of the number of student journalists who will be traveling to Fort Lauderdale.

There they plan to produce a newspaper for residents of a homeless shelter through a program that the local SPJ chapter has organized for the last four years.

This is the kind of student you should be proud of. Her work reflects well upon the education she has received at the University of Memphis.

That is why it is so disheartening and disappointing to read the coverage of the controversy surrounding these funding cuts.

I understand that we live in a world where resources are not infinite and where funds for higher education have been cut significantly in recent years.

But I’m also mindful of the fact that while other organizations that received less than the funding than requested, The Helmsman is one of just two groups to have their funds slashed by a third.

I’m also greatly disturbed by a statement attributed to your Dean of Student Stephen Petersen in a story that appeared in The Commercial-Appeal which quotes him as saying:

“I can’t begin to tell you the examples that came up in that conversation about things that the paper did print that seem to have very little relevance or that seemed to touch very, very few students on the campus,” Petersen said, according to a transcript of that meeting. “Probably the one that sticks out most in my mind is the Marxist student group, which is like four people or something.”

Petersen, who chairs the allocation committee, also added that, “There were some members of that committee that voted zero funding for the Helmsman this year. Zero.”

Zero. That certainly sounds to me like a sentiment based more upon the content of the paper than a budget-driven austerity move. If that is the case, such a decision could be viewed as a First Amendment violation.

So I was glad to read last week that you have asked for an investigation into whether those cuts are the result of an unwelcome and possibly unlawful attempt to exert undue influence over the paper’s editorial content.

I also would ask you in your capacity as University President to restore these funds so that The Helmsman does not have to resort to the drastic remedy of curtailing the number of days on which it is published.

That would go a long way toward clearing up any mixed messages. Your campus is well served by having a robust student newspaper that not only informs the community but serves as a training ground for future professional journalists.

Yours truly,

John Ensslin

President

Society of Professional Journalists

Baptist Named Among “Best Places to Work in Healthcare”

Modern Healthcare Magazine has named Baptist Memorial Health Care one of the nation’s top 100 “Best Places to Work in Healthcare,” making it one of the few large systems to be named to the list.

According to Modern Healthcare, the Best Places to Work in Healthcare program recognizes outstanding employers in the health care industry. About 400 health care organizations across the country this year competed for the national distinction.

Baptist Memorial Hospital-Union City in Union City,Tenn., made the list in 2010 and 2011. This year, however, marks the first time Baptist Memorial Health Care elected to contend for this award as an entire health care system.

Baptist employees throughout the system were selected at random to participate in the employee survey process. Modern Healthcare’s Best Places to Work committee assessed each organization on its organizational merits and employee survey participation and responses.

“We are honored to receive this award because it tells us our colleagues appreciate the culture we try to establish and sustain throughout our system,” Stephen Reynolds, Baptist’s president and CEO, said in a statement. “Throughout our 100-year history, we have strived for excellence in everything we do. To be named among the nation’s best health care workplaces continues that tradition into our next 100 years.”

One of the largest nonprofit health care systems in the United States, Baptist Memorial Health Care employs more than 14,000 people.

“We’re fortunate to have 14,000 remarkable colleagues who demonstrate their commitment to our patients, customers and each other every day to make Baptist an extraordinary place to work,” said John Lacy, Baptist’s assistant vice president of human resources. “Being included on this list as a health care system is a tribute to their hard work, dedication to service excellence, and our strong system integration.”

Miss Tennessee Visits Le Bonheur Pediatric Patients

Miss Tennessee 2012 Chandler Lawson visits patients this morning, July 26, at 10:15 at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. Lawson, a 22-year-old native of Tullahoma, was named Miss Tennessee in late June. As part of her reign,Chandler is visiting hospitalized children.

Her year’s activities include visiting Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals across the state. Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, a non-profit organization dedicated to saving and improving the lives of children by raising funds for children’s hospitals, is the national platform partner of the Miss America Organization. Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital is Memphis’ Children’s Miracle Network hospital.

Dansette

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