COLLEGE OF MASS COMMUNICATIONS HONORS OUTSTANDING ALUMNI

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: Nov. 16, 2005
CONTACT: John Davis, john.w.davis@ttu.edu

LUBBOCK -- The College of Mass Communications at Texas Tech University will honor eight former students during the 2005 Outstanding Alumni Breakfast.

This is the 25th year for the event, which begins at 8 a.m. Saturday (Nov. 19) at the Merket Alumni Center, 17th Street and University Avenue on the Texas Tech campus.

Tickets for the breakfast are $15 per plate or $80 for a table of eight. Reservations are due by noon Friday (Nov. 18) and can be made by calling 742-3385.

“I am exceptionally pleased to have such a fine group of honorees this year,” said Jerry Hudson, dean of the College of Mass Communications. “They reflect the breadth and the depth of the quality of students we are dedicated to preparing through an education in the College of Mass Communications. A review of their achievements shows that they have had a significant impact on society and the professions our college is dedicated to serving. We are proud to be associated with such a fine group of individuals.”

Honorees are:

● Steve Beasley, publisher of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, has spent his career working for newspapers. A 1967 graduate of Monterey High School in Lubbock, Beasley attended Texas Tech, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in advertising in 1972. At The A-J, he has served as assistant classified advertising manager, retail advertising manager and advertising director. In 2002, he became general manager of the Savannah (Ga.) Morning News before returning to Lubbock as The A-J’s publisher. Beasley has participated in several professional newspaper organizations, including serving as president for the Texas Newspaper Advertising Managers Association, president of the Midwest Newspapers Advertising Executives Association and vice president from Texas for the International Newspaper Advertising Executives Association.

● Michelle Bleiberg is the director of public relations for the Dallas Museum of Art. Bleiberg graduated in 1989 from Texas Tech with a bachelor’s degree in public relations. During her career, she has provided counsel for several consumer, public affairs and entertainment clients, including Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Also, she has served as a senior account executive for Publicis Public Relations in Dallas, manager of client services for Ackerman Public Relations and Marketing in Dallas and director of public relations and event marketing for ABC Radio. In 2001, Bleiberg served as senior consultant for her own consulting firm, MEB Communications of Dallas. Bleiberg’s past credits include chairwoman of the Dallas Press Club and the Katie Awards Journalism Competition.

● Since 1994, Max Faulkner has worked as director of photography for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. After graduating from Texas Tech in 1981, Faulkner became staff photographer of the Odessa American, where he was promoted three years later to chief photographer. Faulkner left for the Star-Telegram in 1984, becoming photo editor a year later. He has served as director of the paper’s on-site coverage of major events, such as the attack on the World Trade Center in New York City, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. During his career, Faulkner served as president for Fort Worth’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He currently serves on Texas Tech’s College of Mass Communications Advisory Committee.

● Brian Jensen serves as the voice of Red Raider football on the Red Raider Network and is director of communications for Cushman & Wakefield. Jensen graduated from Texas Tech University in 1981 after working as sports director for KTXT-FM and a part-time reporter at KFYO-AM radio. In 1981, Jensen became weekend anchor and sports reporter for KFDM-TV in Beaumont. He was promoted to weekday anchor and sports director six years later. In 1988, Jensen became weekend and backup anchor at WFAA-TV in Dallas. In 1997, Jensen moved to Fort Worth to anchor KXAS-TV’s 10 p.m. newscast. In 1999, he won the Dallas Press Club’s top sports award for Best Sportscast. Jensen has written two books on the accomplishments of retired athletes. “Where Have All Our Cowboys Gone?” was published in 2001 and “Where Have All Our Yankees Gone?” was published in 2004. He has been community chairman for the Brian Jensen House Open, which raises money for children affected by HIV and AIDS.

● Todd Neal is the classified advertising executive director at the Houston Chronicle. He graduated in 1987 from Texas Tech with a bachelor’s in advertising. After returning to his hometown of Houston, Neal became an account executive for the Chronicle, where he managed $5 million in local and regional ad revenue. Today, he is responsible for $175 million in classified advertising revenue for the paper. During his career, Neal has been display-advertising sales manager, retail-metro/national advertising director and display advertising director, and has won five Publishers Club Awards.

● Tanji Patton is anchorwoman for WOAI-TV in San Antonio. She began her career in 1978 at KLBK-TV while still a student at Texas Tech. After graduating in 1980 with a bachelor’s in journalism, Patton worked in public relations for four years at Anderson Advertising. Patton resumed her broadcast career in 1984 at WOAI-TV as a general assignments reporter. She became weekend anchorwoman in 1988, and executive director and host for “4 San Antonio Living.” She received praise from the state comptroller for her investigative reporting on the use of psychotropic drugs on foster children. Following an investigative report that revealed minors buying drug paraphernalia at local head shops, the Drug Enforcement Agency began enforcing federal paraphernalia laws more strictly. Patton does freelance work for Radio-Television News Directors Association and the National Association of Television Program Executives.

● After 25 years of service to Texas Tech, Ashton Thornhill retired this January from the university. Most recently, Thornhill served as director of academic affairs for the Texas Tech University Center at Junction. After graduating in 1972 with a bachelor’s of business administration from TTU, he began his career in 1973 as a photojournalist at KAMC-TV. In 1974, Thornhill earned a master’s degree from the Department of Mass Communications. He moved in 1977 to the Dallas-Fort Worth area to handle general assignment news and produce a weekly entertainment show for KXAS-TV. Thornhill began teaching at TTU in 1979 as an assistant professor and director of photocommunications. Later, he was promoted to associate professor and directed the university’s freshman seminar program. His professional photography has premiered at several exhibitions around the world. Three of the five photographs from Texas Tech’s “Spirit of the Llano Estacado” exhibit were on display at the Karl May Haus in Hohenstein-Ernstthal, Germany. He won first place in the Texas Photographic Society’s Governor’s Exhibition in 1997.

● Morris Wilkes is vice president of public affairs for Cox Communications in Lubbock. Also, he serves as a senior advance representative for President George W. Bush, coordinating a variety of presidential trips and events. He graduated in 1975 with a bachelor’s in journalism from Texas Tech. Wilkes’ broadcasting career began in 1972 as a staff announcer for the former KWGO-FM. He became an announcer, news reporter and production director for KFYO-AM radio, and later became part-owner and operations manager of KRLB AM-FM. Wilkes served as executive assistant and chief-of-staff for state Sen. John T. Montford in 1983 and chief clerk for the State Senate Affairs Committee. In 1991, Wilkes opened The Wilkes Company, a public affairs and political consulting firm which managed political campaigns and provided lobbying and public affairs consulting.

CONTACT: Jerry Hudson, dean of the College of Mass Communications, (806) 742-2385, jerry.hudson@ttu.edu.


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