An association for alumni and supporters of The Daily Texan

Friends of The Daily Texan

An association for alumni and supporters of The Daily Texan

Friends of The Daily Texan

An association for alumni and supporters of The Daily Texan

Friends of The Daily Texan

Contact Information
Friends of The Daily Texan, Inc.
1401 Lavaca St
Austin, TX 78701

[email protected]

Saying ‘thank you’ to Griff Singer

Saying “thank you” to an individual who meant so much to your life and career is not as simple as it might seem, because those words alone cannot fully convey the sincerity behind the remark.

Nonetheless, University of Texas at Austin ex-students, faculty and staff and students – friends and colleagues from more decades than we care to admit – gathered Oct. 17 to honor and celebrate the contributions of Griff Singer, retired journalist and instructor at the journalism school at UT-Austin.

The Friends of The Daily Texan alumni group sponsored the event.

As the program cover noted, the event honored “Griff Singer – THE Friend of the Daily Texan.”

To celebrate Griff’s contributions, and how he impacted so many lives, the event at the UT Visual Arts Center was held as a fund-raiser.

The $50,000-plus raised at the event will provide initial funding for the Innovation Fund, a fund established by Friends of The Daily Texan to provide assistance to The Daily Texan, student newspaper at UT.DailyTexan_060

The speaker’s list was impressive: former Texan staffer and SVP/Editor-in-Chief of Woman’s Day Jane Chesnutt, Friends President Cliff Avery, j-school director R.B. Brenner, former Texan editor David Powell, Dean Rod Hart, former Texan Editor Beth Frerking, Daily Texan Hall of Fame member Karen Tumulty, retired Business Week Managing Editor Mark Morrison, Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Ben Sargent and former Texan staffer and businessman Joe Phillips.

Mark introduced Griff, saying “Like many of you, I always considered the Texan first and foremost as the place where I learned something about journalism and got enough experience to land a journalism job.

“My appreciation for and loyalty to the Texan mean absolutely no disrespect to the School of Journalism on its 100th birthday,” Morrison added. “On the contrary, the Texan became one of the country’s best college papers because so many of its staffers learned the basics of reporting, writing and editing in journalism classes. More important, we learned about how to be accurate, fair and ethical in our journalism. We even began to develop some news judgment. We had remarkable teachers like Griff who had had worked for papers or broadcast outlets.”

Griff, almost always stoic, composed and on target, graciously thanked the group, and offered one particular phrase not in his prepared remarks, illustrating how moved he was, after one of the many rounds of applause and toasts:

“Gosh,” he motioned across the room to the crowd, “you’re all my kids!”

–John Reetz

Please see Griff’s remarks, printed in full below.


Remarks of Griff Singer, Oct. 17, 2014

Click here to download a copy of the program.



Thank you Mark.

Thank you Jane Chesnutt. You obviously are the Perle Mesta of 2014.

Mesta was known as the “hostess with the moistest” for her lavish parties featuring the brightest stars of Washington, D.C. society, including artists, entertainers and many top-level national political figures. Actually, she was more than that: She was the ambassador to Luxembourg 1949-1953 and was among the first leaders of the equal rights amendment.

Thank you Cliff Avery and thank you John Reetz. You guys have done so much work to get the Friends of The Daily Texan started and keep it rolling to a point we are in a position to help reinvent or reinvigorate The Daily Texan.

Thank you Rod Hart. If you and Bill Powers had not talked, we might not be here today.

R.B. Brenner, welcome to Austin. We may not have the reputation of Stanford, but we’re trying to get there.

And Gerald Johnson: a belated welcome to Austin as director of Texas Student Media. All of us here today sincerely want the greatest success for you and your organization.

Thank you one and all.

I am deeply moved by your presence, my former students and longtime friends. I told Jane and Cliff somebody had me — The Dollar General Store sort of guy — confused with Neiman-Marcus. Why not get somebody who is somebody to get a bunch of folks to cough up some money? They didn’t listen.

I am hopeful this event and such future events will help provide for a stronger and better Daily Texan.

I cannot adequately express what The Texan has meant to me. As a young guy with hair, The Texan proved to be my lifeline to getting an education, literally.

Let me explain.

High school to printer apprentice to Austin. No funds.

Learned quickly about NETWORKING, although we did not label it as such then.

By my count, I’ve lived to tell the tale of working with 28 Texan editors, three as a student and about 25 as a faculty member and a member of the Texas Student Media Board.

I sang at two weddings of Texan staffers (neither lasted) and even made a 36-hour road trip with a bunch of Texan sports staffers to cover the Big Shootout between Texas and Arkansas in 1969. What a fool I was. But I was young then and I had a car they needed badly.

I’m hopeful as we look back that the editors and Texan staffers now feel as I: We are all the better for the experience. But I’ll be the first to acknowledge some of our days were trying.

We all know about battles with Frank Erwin over trying to control editorial content of The Texan and expiration of the Texas Student Publications charter. Erwin’s goal was clear: to punish and ultimately get rid of The Texan.

I graduated in June 1955, but was still wearing my printer’s apron waiting to pin on second lieutenant’s bars and march off to as an MP in the U.S. Army. Do you remember who took over as editor in June 1955?

The one and only Willie Morris.

And one of the benefits of to wait to go on active duty was the opportunity to work with Willie.

He would come down to The Texan composing room and we would rework headlines for his editorials. He never did figure out how to count headlines. So we stood at the then hot metal Ludlow and worked out his headlines. He was funny and fun to work with.

Here was this brillant mind, hidden behind the face of someone who just knew could be only 14 years old. He wasn’t but he looked it.

The words of Willie Morris, in his first editorial on June 5, 1955, were what we now surely recognize as prophetic for The Daily Texan and for many of us at this junction:


Joseph Pulitzer once said a newspaper has no friends — to rephrase, The Texan has no obligations . . . . The Daily Texan is bigger than any one man. We will protect it and its tradition with our youth and our strength, and if necessary, with our personal reputation. You will be jostled, cajoled, embarrassed, yet, through our telescope of ideas, you will see your life here in much nobler focus. We have been appalled by the tragic shroud which cloaks our undergraduate. This student apathy, this disregard of all save the most materialistic, is a thing of the mid-twentieth century. If we do not kill it now, here on a thousand campuses, it will eventually kill us — an ugly cancer polluting the bloodstream of democracy.

Willie, we soon learned, was doing a William B. Travis and drawing a line in the sand. Some battles were lost after that, by Willie and other Daily Texan editors.

At one point in 1966, the pressure got so strong that those megamillion dollar Texan staff paychecks were held up. Managing editor Sam Keach, recognizing the unjust strain, made an appearance at Erwin’s office and effectively let him know who was really being hurt because of his petty tactics. Sam, our hats off to you for facing up to Erwin. The checks, held up for days earlier, arrived the day after your meeting.

Like in 1975 when an editor-elect, knowing he was required to have completed or be enrolled in the media law and ethics class, dropped the course. While we had been battling outside forces on whether an editor should be elected or appointed, the TSP board had no choice: it had to appoint someone to take the disqualified editor’s place.

Looking back, the board made a pretty good choice.

Scott Tagliarino led The Texan to another coveted Pacemaker Award, the Oscar or Pulitzer for college journalism.

Virtually every Daily Texan staff it seems has faced challenges, be it financial, OR administrative. But LIKE the Texan crews of the late 1950s, ’60s and ’70s NONE HAS ever backed down. Because of grit and courage, the Texan ended up winning the war.

This campus still needs The Texan, regardless of its platform, to provide close and personal tabs on what goes on at this university. But the role of The Texan is much more than being an information source and watchdog. The Texan has been proved to be an extra ordinary learning and teaching resource.

Editors from around the country will tell you that they want to hire entry-level journalists who not only excel in the classroom but also have practical experience. That means work in student media and doing internships.

Internships — paid and not for pay — are not that plentiful. Guess who gets the paid internships? Those students who earlier have worked in student media.

I have been blessed to work and possibly provide a little guidance to so many wonderful, talented students.

The numbers of outstanding journalists, editors, managers and public relations experts goes on and on. You can imagine the pride it gives to me and to the school to note those successes.

I’ve had the privilege of working with  former students who won Pulitzer Prizes:

Mark Dooley, New Orleans Times-Picayune

Karen Elliott House, The Wall Street Journal

Victoria Loe-Hicks, The Dallas Morning News

Lynn Lunsford, The Wall Street Journal

Dan Malone, The Dallas Morning News

John Pope, New Orleans Times-Picayune

Gail Reaves, The Dallas Morning News

Ben Sargent, Austin American-Statesman

Eileen Welsome, The Albuquerque Tribune

Another UT photography great, Judy Walgren, now director of photography at the San Francisco Chronicle, was part of the Dallas News Pulitzer team with Victoria and Gail. They were rewarded with the 1994 Pulitzer Prize in International Reporting for a series on violent human rights abuses against women worldwide.

On top of that, Karen Tumulty last year received the prestigious Toner Prize, administered by Syracuse University, for outstanding political reporting.

Lynn, John and Ben are here today. How wonderful to see you.

I hope you will bear with me while I express gratitude for some special and encouraging honors from former students, virtually all former Texan staffers.

I’m not sure what moved them, but I do appreciate their thoughtful gifts to the UT Journalism School and its students on my behalf:

There’s Joe Phillips, who endowed the S. Griffin Singer Professorship in Journalism. And it’s great that the first fellow named to that professorship is none other than Wanda Garner (Fluffy) Cash, now associate director of the School of Journalism.

And then there’s the group that helped establish the Griff Singer Student Support Endowment, which provides scholarships, paid internships or financial aid to students. Thanks

Ramon Garza

Karen House

Mark Morrison

Joe Phillips

Rusty Todd

Karen Tumulty

Michael J. Wilson

I cannot forget other special friends who have allowed me to play a role in improving journalism at the professional level and in some cases recognized me:

South Texas Press Association

Texas Press Association

Texas Newspaper Foundation

Headliners Club of Texas Foundation — again thanks to Mark Morrison

The Associated Press Media Editors and the AP — in Texas and nationally.

Dow Jones News Fund: Beth Butler, Rich Holden, Linda Shockley, George Sylvie, Rusty Todd, Bradley Wilson, Amy Zerba.

Houston Chronicle — In 1987, Tony Pederson and the late Tommy Miller invited me to spend six weeks during the summer in Houston critiquing the paper, doing some writing improvement workshops and some editing on the side. Seventeen summers later, Evelyn and I decided maybe it was time to stay in Austin. Talk about getting your journalistic juices going again. Houston’s a great news town. Andrea Yates

John Reetz: he let me cross off a big item on my bucket list — going to the Atlanta Summer Olympic Games in 1996 — when he called and asked if I were serious about working for him on the Olympics Daily. Was I serious? No. But it took me about 10 seconds to ask, “When should I be there?”


Son and daughter-in-law: Mark and Tricia Singer and granddaughter Siena Singer

Daughter and son-in-law: Cathy and Clay Becker

Stepson and daughter-in-law: Michael and Kathryn Selby and granddaughters Paige Selby and Brynn Selby

Evelyn Singer

We all have been over some rough road in our lives: living through fear and losses caused by war, family separations, deaths, bad career decisions.

I’m forever grateful from a tough loving mom who all but strangled Abe Lincoln coming through the great depression, World War II and afterward.

She was strict, oft times critical, but as virtually a single mom also encouraged me. Thanks to her and a network of relatives, extended family and coworkers, I somehow made it to UT two years after graduating from high school.

And as they say, the rest is history.

To paraphrase baseball legend Lou Gehrig in his famous retirement speech on July 4, 1939 — 75 years ago — I consider myself to be the luckiest man on the face of this earth.

Thank you.