Respected faculty member named inaugural professor of practice in journalism

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- A Penn State faculty member with more than 30 years of professional journalism experience and a half decade in the classroom has been selected to fill a first-of-its-kind position in the College of Communications.

John Dillon has been named the inaugural Norman Eberly Professor of Practice in Journalism. The position was created through the University’s ongoing Faculty Endowment Challenge to provide support for an outstanding professionally-oriented faculty member in the Department of Journalism.

A major gift by Joseph Eberly and his wife, Shirley, endowed the position in the name of Norman Eberly, who graduated from Dickinson College in 1924 and then worked as a newspaper journalist for 20-some years -- first as an undergraduate -- before joining the Penn State staff as a writer-editor in the College of Agricultural Sciences. He helped publicize agricultural extension and outreach efforts across the state of Pennsylvania and also worked closely with student writers.

Dillon, who spent nearly all of his career at the Richmond Times-Dispatch, teaches news writing and reporting, feature writing and news media ethics. In addition, he annually leads an independent study option for top journalism students to write for the Centre Daily Times during the academic year.

During his tenure at the Times-Dispatch, Dillon served as a feature writer, business news reporter, assistant city editor, special assignments editor, assisant managing editor and deputy managing editor.

The Eberly professor of practice is expected to possess exceptionally strong professional credentials and skills, possess extensive contacts at media outlets and organizations, stand among the best classroom teachers in the college, work within the college to facilitate internship and career placement opportunities, and serve as a liaison for the program with relevant journalism associations and organizations. Dillon will continue to teach and bring professional journalists to campus who possess specialty reporting expertise in fields such as business, science and technology. In addition, the endowed position will provide support for embedded instruction in existing courses, special workshops and travel to important academic and professional conferences.

“We’ll be able to serve our journalism students like never before,” Dean Doug Anderson said. “John will, in essence, help mold and enhance our journalism curriculum and he will ‘grow’ the professorship and its impact. He will enable us to do a beter job than ever before of preparing our students for the changing media landscape they will enter.”

Dillon earned his bachelor’s degree from Creighton University and his master’s from the University of Minnesota. He is a former co-chair of the Virginia Press Association Diversity Committee, a former president of the Society of Professonal Journalists in Virginia and a former board member of the SPJ Educational Foundation of the Virgnia Professional Chapter.

Joseph Eberly, the Andrew Carnegie Professor of Physics at the University of Rochester, learned the importance of writing from his father. His exams often include essay questions -- which, he said, are not often a favorite of physics students.

“Physics students are not used to that. But, if they cannot explain their science, there’s no way to know if they really understand,” said Eberly, who earned his bachelor’s degree in physics from Penn State in 1957 and his doctorate in physics from Stanford in 1962. He was named recipient of the Outstanding Science Alumni Award from the University in 1998. “They need to know how to write, especially the graduate students for dissertations and publications.”

Norman Eberly retired from Penn State to continue his writing career with the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, where he coordinated public relations efforts for the secretary of agriculture and made an impact across the Commonwealth, but he always stayed connected to Penn State. Until his death in 1996 at age 99, he faithfully followed Penn State football.

“It’s clear that my father wasn’t an academic but a writing-editing journalist,” Joseph Eberly said. “My wife and I hope that Dad would like having his name associated with journalism at Penn State.”

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Last Updated January 09, 2015