Ohio Wesleyan faculty, staff, alumni and Delaware residents will honor Verne Edwards, the former journalism professor who set higher standards for his students than many of their future editors, on Nov. 22 in the Benes rooms at Hamilton-Williams Campus Center.
Edwards, who died at 90 on Nov. 4, joined the OWU faculty in 1952, teaching courses and serving as The Transcript’s adviser until his retirement in 1986, according to a statement from University President Rock Jones. In that time he mentored many of the university’s most successful journalists, including Pulitzer Prize and Emmy Award winners.
“If we judge educators by the success of their former students, then Verne Edwards stood at the top of his profession,” Jones wrote.
Edwards thought the best trained journalists should have “the broadest understanding of the world as possible,” said Tom Jolly ‘77, a former student of Edwards’s who is now an associate managing editor for The New York Times.
He was known to give his classes pop quizzes about current affairs — for example, asking them to name the Supreme Court justices, or the capital of a particular foreign country. If students failed, it wasn’t uncommon to see the same quiz again the next day.
That philosophy of broad knowledge continues to undergird the OWU journalism program today as it did in Edwards’ tenure. When Jolly was a student, he said, he took relatively few journalism courses for the major. Current journalism students must take at least eight courses of the 15.5 units required for the major outside of the department.
Edwards placed great importance on fairness in reporting without fear of offense or favor, a principle that influenced Trace Regan, whom he hired to the OWU journalism faculty in 1983. In working with Edwards, fairness became essential to how he dealt with students and what he taught them in the classroom until his retirement last year.
As The Transcript’s adviser, Edwards was famous to students for marking up each issue of the paper with a red pencil to point out mistakes, writing an “F” next to egregious errors. He was a tougher editor than any of his students would ever have, Jolly said, but with his high standards came invaluable lessons they would carry throughout their careers.
“He’s kind of that angel on your shoulder,” Jolly said. “He’s a presence reminding you what’s expected, what’s fair, what’s right, what’s wrong.”
Edwards was also an active and engaged citizen of Delaware, said University Chaplain Jon Powers. He served as an assistant to the publisher of the Delaware Gazette for 12 years after he retired from teaching, and would write “sharply focused” columns about local and national issues.
“He wasn’t a partisan,” Powers said. “He was more of a statesman.”
Edwards’s memorial service is set for 2 p.m. on Saturday in the Benes Rooms of the Hamilton-Williams Campus Center.