When Mike Whitehead (’81) thinks about his days at the University of North Texas, he remembers a sense of belonging.
“It was love at first sight,” says Whitehead, who came to UNT from his hometown of Beaumont, Texas. “I’ll never forget walking across campus on a crisp fall day thinking that I’m part of something greater than myself, something special.”
That feeling of connection is still there for the veteran journalist, who credits his professors for instilling in him the rigor required in professional journalism. For more than 40 years, Whitehead has had a successful career in daily newspapers. Part of the time he worked for the media giant Gannett Company, including stints as the managing editor for the local newspaper in San Bernardino, Calif. and later as executive editor for the Salem Statesman-Journal in Salem, Ore. and The Times in Shreveport, La. Whitehead also worked in various editing positions for The Orange County Register and The Dallas Morning News.
In gratitude to his former professors, Whitehead has bequeathed in his will a $100,000 planned gift to the Frank W. and Sue Mayborn School of Journalism to create the C. Michael Whitehead Scholarship. The endowed scholarship awards $4,000 a year to one journalism student attending UNT full time. A scholarship committee will select the scholarship recipient.
Whitehead credits his success to being taught by journalists who had worked in the profession and therefore understood the high standards expected in the newsroom.
“They made us understand that integrity mattered. Credibility mattered,” says Whitehead. “With responsibility comes accountability. They made sure we were accountable for our work.”
Whitehead was taught by the likes of C.E. “Pop” Shuford, who founded the UNT journalism department; Barbara Colegrove, a teacher so popular that for decades former students would return faithfully to her annual reunions; and Roy Busby, who is the director of the Mayborn Graduate Institute of Journalism and graduate associate dean.
“The faculty prepared me for my career, but they did so much more,” Whitehead says. “They taught me life lessons, and they gave me a sense of worth that was so important for me as a human being. I just want to give someone else the same opportunity.”
Profile by Meredith Dickenson