A Magazine by the Society of Professional Journalists

Obituaries – Bert Bostrom and Anne Nunamaker

By Quill

Bert Bostrom

Talent, truth, energy. It’s the title of the late Bert Bostrom’s book commemorating the Society of Professional Journalists’ first 75 years of service to journalism.

But the title also describes Bostrom’s legacy as a talented reporter, a teacher of the truth, and a whirlwind of energy in service to others.

Bert N. Bostrom died April 30, 2013, in Prescott Valley, Ariz. He was 80. Friends, family and students remember him as the teacher and reporter who brought journalism to life. After graduating from Arizona State University with degrees in journalism and English, he taught at public schools for 10 years and reported for The Phoenix Gazette. In 1968, he joined the Valley of the Sun professional chapter of Sigma Delta Chi as an assistant professor at Northern Arizona University.

During the next several years, he became more involved as charter president of the Grand Canyon chapter, faculty adviser to NAU’s campus chapter, deputy director for Region 11 and a member of several SPJ national committees.

Bostrom was elected national vice president for campus chapter affairs in 1978. He later took a year sabbatical from NAU to record 25 years of SPJ history from 1959 to 1984.

Nepha Bostrom, a lifelong friend Bert married in 1996, said his commitment to “doing his homework” when he was reporting, paired with his natural ability to lure stories out of people, made him the perfect candidate for the job.

“He was able to bring out the history,” Nepha Bostrom said.

He spent the first weeks of 1980 rifling through drawers of documents and photographs in the Society’s Chicago headquarters before traveling the country the rest of the year to conduct tape-recorded, on-site interviews with SPJ’s presidents. After three more years of research, writing and interviewing when he returned to NAU, Bostrom finished his book for the 1984 publication.

Bostrom was awarded SPJ’s highest honor, the Wells Memorial Key, in 1984 for his finished publication. It was among his proudest accomplishments, Nepha Bostrom said.

When she was writing his obituary in April, she had a hard time keeping track of all his awards and honors, which included NAU’s Distinguished Faculty Award, the President’s Award for Outstanding Service and Professor Emeritus. He also earned the Arizona Press Club’s Lifetime Achievement Award and was named Outstanding Academic Adviser by the National Academic Advisers Association, Arizona Newspaper Association’s University Journalism Teacher of the Year and the Phoenix Jaycees’ Outstanding Young Educator.

“But he only wanted to be known as a good teacher,” Nepha Bostrom said. “Seeing students succeed and teaching journalism the way it ought to have been taught — that pleased him more than anything.” Bostrom taught in public schools for 10 years before he joined the NAU staff. When he was a professor at NAU, he worked so closely with his students that the school built its student advising program around Bostrom and named him the director in 1984, said Dal Herring, who taught with him for 16 years.

“There was an aura about him; it was magic almost, and the kids instantly connected with him,” Herring said. “He was one of those teachers you run into as a student who’s special and you remember the rest of your life.”

Bostrom kept in touch with a handful of students after his retirement in 1988. One student, Keven Willey, now editorial page editor of The Dallas Morning News, called Bostrom in his final days. Willey led a team of reporters who won the Pulitzer Prize in 2010, and she oversaw Pulitzer finalists in 2001, 2003 and 2008.

But she almost left the industry as a freshman at NAU because her classes were more focused on journalism theory than practical experience. Bostrom changed that. He re-arranged Willey’s schedule to give her more on-the-job experience and convinced her to stick with the major one more semester. When she did, she was hooked. Two years later, Bostrom convinced her to run for a highly competitive student chair on SPJ’s national board, and she won.

Willey described Bostrom’s teaching as intentional and conversational, abundant with aspiration.

“We read and discussed books, but we also talked about real life and how to make a difference in real life,” Willey said. “He made journalism come alive in that regard.”

Anne W. Nunamaker

Anne W. Nunamaker, a former president of the D.C. and Maryland professional chapters, died April 10, 2013, of liver cancer. In 1999, she received the D.C. Pro chapter’s Distinguished Service Award for numerous contributions to the profession as an educator.

In 1988-89, she was president of the D.C. chapter when it received the national best chapter award. She was president of the Maryland professional chapter from 1981 to 1983. She was a longtime member of SPJ’s Ethics and FOI committees, and was interested in the work of the Student Press Law Center. In 1991, she served as Region 2 director and on SPJ’s national board.

Nunamaker taught journalism for four decades on high school and college levels. Most recently, she was an associate professor at Howard University from 1983 until her retirement in 2001. At Howard she advised the campus chapter of SPJ and specialized in teaching ethics, copy editing, reporting and writing. She taught at the University of Maryland and Middle Tennessee State University before joining Howard’s journalism faculty. Her teaching career started in public schools in Florida and Ohio.

Her professional experience included stints at the Nashville Tennessean, WVIZ-TV in Cleveland and The Wall Street Journal. She held degrees from Middle Tennessee State and a doctorate from Peabody College of Vanderbilt University.