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UP newsroom naming will pay tribute to Howard Perkins

For 34 years, Howard Perkins imparted knowledge and inspired learning among his students while allowing them to hold on to their sense of self and creativity. He knew the value of mixing professionalism with a joy for the work.

Perkins was advisor, teacher, mentor and inspiration for generations of Lamar University students now achieving success throughout the communication profession.

And now, the place where he taught his students to go the extra mile as they pursued excellence will pay tribute to Perkins, who died Oct. 20, 2010, at age 72.

Regents of The Texas State University System have authorized Lamar to name Room 200A of the Setzer Student Center the Howard A. Perkins Newsroom. In unanimous action Feb. 11 in Austin, regents noted:

* Perkins became advisor to the University Press in 1976 and served as director of student publications for 34 years.
* During his time as director, the University Press averaged more than 25 regional and national awards each year – a total of more than 850, often in competition with professional publications.
* In 1976, the Texas Intercollegiate Press Association honored Perkins as advisor of the year. In 2001, the Southwestern Journalism Congress named a scholarship in his honor.
* Former UP staff members have worked in all branches of media, as well as becoming teachers at all levels. A survey several years ago found 47 former staffers at work in Golden Triangle media alone.
* Perkins was a pre-eminent historian of old Beaumont homes and wrote numerous articles, as well as being featured on HGTV. He served as a docent at the McFaddin-Ward House for many years.

“Howard Perkins played an important role in student life at Lamar University for more than three decades. His leadership and inspiration influenced not only the students on his University Press staffs but also UP readers across campus for whom the newspaper was a professional-quality source of information and enlightenment,” said Barry Johnson, vice president for student affairs.

“Hundreds of student journalists began their careers under his tutelage, and he was a constant presence in the UP offices. It is, therefore, most appropriate that the Howard A. Perkins Newsroom become a visible and permanent part of Howard’s legacy.”

“Mr. Perkins was the University Press, no doubt about it,” 1998 UP editor Billie Dorman wrote in a guest column published Jan. 29 in the Beaumont Enterprise. “We aimed for excellence because of him. We wanted to impress him to prove we were worthy of his fountain of knowledge . . . Mr. Perkins made you want to go the extra mile. It’s unbelievable the difference one man can make in the lives of so many people.”

Plans for the official naming will be announced later, said Andy Coughlan, interim director of student publications.

When news broke that Perkins had died, the University Press office phone began to ring as hundreds of former UP staffers, students and friends felt the need to reach out and connect with a man who many said had impacted their lives in such a positive way, according to a tribute to Perkins published in the UP.

“The University Press has a great reputation in the college newspaper field, and that has everything to do with Howard,” Coughlan said. “He was very proud of the quality of work the students produced. He was keen to build a tradition of quality, and the students really bought into that.”

He also knew the value of mixing professionalism with a joy for the work, said Linda Barrett, a student who returned in 1992 to become UP advertising director. “I never stopped learning from him,” Barrett said.

Lauren Wigley Helling, UP editor from 2007-2008, said Perkins had the ability to impart knowledge and inspire learning while allowing his students to hold on to their own sense of self and creativity.

Roger Cowles, editor of the Port Arthur News and Perkins’ first appointed editor, said Perkins impressed on him the importance of getting things done right and done well to produce a quality news product. “I credit him for really instilling a drive for accuracy,” Cowles said.

“I think of him every single time I write something that other people are going to read,” said Julie Gipson-Mashaney, former UP managing editor.

Patrick Gurski, editor of the University Press in 2003 and 2004, said Perkins showed him the pride people have in the school and community. “The greatest thing about Howard was that he really gave me a sense of pride and a sense of history about both the school and the city we live in,” Gurski said.

As an historian, “He was such an encyclopedia of Beaumont history, architecture and families,” said Judy Linsley, curator of interpretation and education at the McFaddin-Ward House. “Someone once said ‘When he died, a small library burned to the ground.’”

Andrew Strange of Beaumont, 2010-2011 UP editor, said Perkins’ spirit lives on at the UP. “He taught us to strive for excellence in producing the best possible newspaper,” Strange said.

The family, former students and other friends of Perkins are establishing a scholarship in his memory to benefit future UP staff members. Checks payable to the Lamar University Foundation may be mailed to P.O. Box 11500, Lamar University, Beaumont, TX 77710, with “Howard Perkins Scholarship” in the notation.