Commencement Weekend May 15-17, 2009 - John J. Curley
The Conferring of Honorary Degrees
John J. Curley
Citation Presented by Neil Weissman, Provost & Dean of the College
Conferring of the degree by William G. Durden, President
If this honorary degree recipient were to write his own citation, it might read as follows. “John Curley, high achiever, great guy, congratulations.” Though, on second thought, that might be too wordy. Those who know John will agree that there are few individuals for whom exceptional accomplishment and desire for attention are in such inverse proportion. Let me elaborate in “un-Curley-like” fashion.
Although John once replied to a leadership survey that he had started to develop his organizational style “before the 3rd grade,” we believe the formative era for his career was his four years as a student at Dickinson. Here he double majored in Political Science and English and served as a reporter, sports columnist (his column entitled “Curly Q’s”), and editor for the Dickinsonian. At commencement in 1960, he received the Hufstader Award as the senior man who had contributed most to the college.
After graduating from Dickinson and serving in the United States Army, John earned a masters degree from the Columbia University School of Journalism and launched a career that took him to the pinnacles of the journalistic profession. To the general public, his most noteworthy achievements would include leadership as general manager of Gannett News when it received the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, revolutionizing the newspaper industry as the first editor of USA Today, and serving as chief executive officer and chairman of Gannett Company, Incorporated. To his colleagues in journalism, however, John is even better known as a “reporters’ editor” who nurtured young journalists and encouraged community investigative reporting.
Parallel to this exemplary work in journalism, John established an exceptional record in support of higher education. His activities have included service as a trustee of Columbia University and chair of the Board of Visitors of Penn State University’s College of Communications. But here in Carlisle his contributions to his alma mater take pride of place. He has worked for Dickinson in multiple capacities, including member of the Alumni Council, chair of the Dickinson Fund, and since 1978 member of the Board of Trustees.
In his final column as student editor of the Dickinsonian, John asserted that the college in 1960 found itself in “a period of transition…that will either establish Dickinson as a highly respected liberal arts college, or a rinky-dink run-of-the-mill institution.” He went on to challenge the new president, the trustees, the faculty, and his fellow students to apply themselves to achieve the former outcome. Ironically, nearly four decades later John himself helped provide the answer to the challenge he had articulated in that closing editorial. As chair of the Dickinson Board of Trustees from 1998 to 2008 he provided leadership for the college in its recommitment to the founding vision of Benjamin Rush and the decade of exceptional growth which followed. With his wife and fellow alum Ann Conser Curley ’63, he has set a model for multifaceted contribution to the college that will ensure Dickinson’s place among America’s leading liberal arts institutions.
Mr. President, I am honored to present you John J. Curley for the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Journalism.
John J. Curley, upon the recommendation of the Faculty to the Board of Trustees, and by its mandamus, I confer upon you the Degree of Doctor of Journalism honoris causa, with all the rights, privileges, and distinction thereunto appertaining, in token of which I present you with this diploma and cause you to be invested with the hood of Dickinson College appropriate to the degree.
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