Summer 2012

PWT honors Kay Casey as COA

Kay Kinkler Casey was named Press Women of Texas Communicator of Achievement during the annual awards banquet at the state conference held in Tyler.

Casey will represent Texas in the annual nationalcompetition held during the NFPW conference in September. State affiliate COA nominees will be honored during the 75th annual conference on Thursday night. The national COA will be named on Friday, Sept. 21 during the Diamonds in the Desert NFPW 75th anniversary celebration and Communicator of Achievement banquet at the Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale, Ariz.

The brightest badge of Kay Casey’s professionalism is the thousands of journalism students who passed through her tutelage. She’s especially proud of the many who went on to practice what they learned and now hold jobs in journalism or related fields.

For 30 years, Casey taught high school journalism and photography, directing publications, guiding students through the joys and labors of creating newspapers and yearbooks for their peers, teaching them not only basic communications skills, but style and ethics, too.

Casey found her connection to the professional workplace when she joined Press Women of Texas and NFPW.

A PWT officer for 35 years, she was president when Texas hosted the 2009 NFPW conference. She volunteers for groups dedicated to furthering opportunities for women, assisting families in need, and encouraging protection of wildlife and the environment.

Newsletters, conference guides and websitehighlight her award winning publications.

"My first paid journalism job was writing feature stories for the Monahans (Texas) News at 10 cents a

word,” said Casey. “I covered subjects like the matriarch of a West Texas founding family, a local flying instructor, and the owner of a new egg farm. The best pay was a free plane ride over the Permian Basin and two dozen fresh eggs." That kind of enthusiasm for journalism and communications has directed Casey’s education, career path and life journey for nearly 70 years.

From early childhood, Casey aspired to be a reporter, “helping” her grandmother chronicle the society news for the Goliad Guard, the newspaper founded and edited by her great grandfather in tiny Goliad, Texas. She served as reporter for her Brownie troop, learning basic news reporting skills from a trained journalist. Clubs and classes happily selected her as their reporter, and they still do. Being privileged to work for four years on a high school newspaper advised by the “best journalism teacher in the world“ set the course for her career as journalism teacher and director of student publications.

Before completing her own college education, she earned a PhT (putting hubby through), managing fire and casualty lines for a Dallas insurance agency and doing independent accounting and tax services. Resuming school at Austin College in Sherman, she earned a BA in English and business, as well as a teaching certificate and later added a Master’s in Journalism from Texas A&M University in Commerce.

When she a accepted her first teaching job at Denison High School, she agreed to advise the yearbook production staff if the principal would allow her journalism students to produce a newspaper, thus beginning 30 years of introducing thousands of studentstojournalism, photography, and design, as well as freedom of speech and press.

“We started with manual typewriters discarded from the typing classes, a makeshift darkroom and the office mimeograph machine to produce a weekly newspaper and provide copy for a page in the local daily newspaper,” she recalls. The student publications programs grew to include an offset press, as well as printing, photography and photojournalism classes. Programs evolved to include advancing technology and training designed to give students marketable skills upon graduation. Working with local media, they were able to spend time on the job with experienced professionals and to conduct and edit video interviews with television, radio, print, marketing and public relations personalities. Many of these students are now themselves the media pros in the local communities.

Claiming that her best work samples are the former students now practicing journalism and related professions, Casey recalls with joy the thousands who experienced the hard work of creating newspapers and yearbooks for their peers. She saw to it that even those who would eventually enter other fields developed basic communications skills and learned to employ news style and understand professional ethics.

Besides expanding and fulfilling her teaching duties, Casey kept up her own development. She realized early the need for a connection to the professional workplace and found it by joining Press Women of Texas and NFPW.

Casey also kept up a busy schedule of enrichment activities for her students. She helped pioneer the first District University Interscholastic League (UIL) competition and supported the Interscholastic League Press Conference practice meets with Grayson County College.

Denison High School students entered UIL contests every year beginning in 1969, often advancing beyond their district level and several times earning state honors. Casey had competed in UIL journalism contests as a high school student in 1954-57 and considered the experience to be so valuable to the contestants that she wanted her own students to participate. Since leaving teaching, she has maintained an active contact with this highly regarded contest, continuing to serve as a competition judge for 10 of the last 14 years.

Just as Casey and her students were bringing the yearbook and newspaper into full digital production, she left teaching to assist her husband, whose early-onset Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis at age 61 tookthem on a 7-year journey thatincluded education about the disease and managing patient care at home, ending in his death in 2003.

In recent years, travel, assisting family, managing a 47-acre hay farm and volunteering in communications and financial management keep her busy. She supports the professional community, especially NFPW /Press Women of Texas, and education and employment opportunities for women and girls. Sharing her love of nature and reverence for wildlife and its habitat with others is a major commitment as she leads in developing a nature store and other projects of Friends of Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge Foundation, including a state-wide Bird Fest planned for 2013.

Kay Casey was named Press Women of Texas Communicator of Achievement during the annual Awards Banquet at the State conference. She will represent Texas in the national COA

competition in September. Photo by Joyce Godwin