Five to be inducted into the School of Journalism and Mass Communications Hall of Fame

SOJMC Hall of Fame

Marshall University’s W. Page Pitt School of Journalism and Mass Communications (SOJMC) Hall of Fame is welcoming five new members.

Steve Cotton, Brent Cunningham, Jack Houvouras, Mike Kirtner and Virginia Sherlock will be inducted into the hall during a ceremony this fall.

“I’m impressed every time,” said Janet Dooley, retiring SOJMC director and associate dean of the College of Arts and Media. “I know our JMC grads often excel in the media industry, but reviewing the exceptional credentials of the Hall of Fame nominations each year is remarkable.

“The number of nominations, the breadth of their experiences and their contributions to media demonstrate why selecting an induction class is such a challenge. I’m delighted to welcome this year’s inductees.”

The first class was enshrined in 1985, and the latest honorees brings the number of inductees to 78.

“This year’s class of inductees is another perfect example that proves Marshall has one of the best journalism and mass communications programs in the country,” said Chris Dickerson, president of the SOJMC Alumni Advisory Board, which handles the nomination process. “We’re fortunate to have such a rich pool of candidates that represents successes in varied aspects of the field locally, regionally and nationally.

“We are extremely proud of all of our graduates, and it is an honor to welcome five more very deserving members to our Hall of Fame.”

Cotton, a 1995 graduate of the SOJMC master’s program, is known to most people as “The Voice of The Herd” for his play-by-play work for Learfield/IMG College broadcasts of Marshall football, men’s basketball and baseball games. He has been honored as the West Virginia Sportscaster of the Year by the National Sports Media Association 14 times, more than anyone in state history. He will start his 26th season as the radio voice of the Herd and 29th season overall with Marshall this fall. He called his 300th Herd football game in 2019 and his 1,000th overall Marshall broadcast in 2020.

Cunningham, a 1988 SOJMC graduate, currently is executive editor of the Food & Environment Reporting Network. He previously has written for the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, the Nation, Pacific Standard, Lapham’s Quarterly, Vox, CNN.com, Nieman Reports and the Charleston Daily Mail. He spent 15 years as a media critic while serving as managing editor of the Columbia Journalism Review. His critical writing about the media was included in the anthology “Our Unfree Press: One Hundred Years of Radical Media Criticism.”

Houvouras, a 1988 SOJMC graduate, founded HQ Publishing Company and started Huntington Quarterly magazine a year after graduation. The company now produces six magazines covering topics such as education, health care and law. He established the John H. Houvouras Scholarship for SOJMC students. He also has served as summer games director of the West Virginia Special Olympics and president of the board of Little Victories Animal Rescue. Houvouras also is a graduate of Leadership West Virginia and a past honoree as an entrepreneur by both the West Virginia Small Business Administration and the Herald-Dispatch.

Kirtner, a 1973 SOJMC graduate, is the co-founder and president and CEO of Kindred Communications. After a few years of moving up and down the radio dial locally and elsewhere (including serving as an advisor with Marshall’s broadcast department), Kirtner returned to Huntington in 1992 and created Kindred. The company now includes six radio stations and Kindred Digital and maintains a presence in the community as the flagship for Thundering Herd sports broadcast. Kirtner is a member of the West Virginia Broadcasting Hall of Fame and was given the Distinguished Service to Marshall University award in 2019.

Sherlock, a 1970 SOJMC graduate, already was a seasoned reporter when she became a desk supervisor at the Associated Press in New York less than four years after graduating. That feat is even more impressive realizing female journalists then mostly wrote for the “women’s pages.” She played a key role in updating the AP Stylebook during her time there, including changes to how women were referenced in stories. After her journalism career, Sherlock obtained a real estate license and eventually a law degree. She is now a partner in an environmental law firm in Stuart, Florida. She is the daughter of W. Page Pitt, the founder of the SOJMC.

Five new members were added to the Hall of Fame last year, but COVID-19 protocols forced last year’s event to be canceled. Bill Bissett, Tony Crutchfield, Chris Fabry, Dan Hollis and Susan Nicholas will be honored at this fall’s induction ceremony as well.

Bissett, a 1997 graduate of the SOJMC Master’s program, is president and CEO of the Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce. He also has served as Chief of Staff and Senior Vice President for Communications of Marshall University under the late President Stephen J. Kopp. He also was President of the Kentucky Coal Association. He is a Huntington native, a United States Army veteran and holds three degrees from Marshall (BA 1992, Ed.D. 2014).

Crutchfield, a 1982 SOJMC graduate, is Senior Vice President of Army Systems, Defense, Space and Security with Boeing. He served in the U.S. Army with distinction, rising to the rank of Lieutenant General. He also is a member of the Board of Society of Yeager Scholars, and he is involved in other types of service to the university.

Fabry, a 1982 SOJMC graduate, is a best-selling author and an award-winning broadcaster. Primarily focusing his work on family and Christian issues, the Culloden native has written more than 80 books – including titles that have landed him on The New York Times best-seller lists – and has hosted national radio programs for more than 35 years.

Hollis has been a member of the SOJMC faculty since 1999. He has inspired countless former students to become journalists, and he continues to produce award-winning video projects as well. He graduated from the University of Southern Indiana and has a master’s degree from the University of Kentucky. He has received numerous awards and honors during his two decades at Marshall, most recently the Hedrick Outstanding Faculty Award.

Nicholas, a 1990 SOJMC graduate, currently is an anchor for WSAZ’s First Look at Four, but she has been a fixture in local broadcasting for more than 30 years. The Milton native also previously worked at WOWK-TV and has helped the SOJMC in a variety of ways over the years, such as hosting last year’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

Inductees need to have a connection to the SOJMC, such as being a graduate or a faculty member, and should meet at least one of two major criteria to be nominated:

  • A graduate of Marshall’s JMC program who has contributed to Journalism and Mass Communications as a profession. The nominee has made a contribution to the profession of journalism or has made a positive impact upon the profession.
  • Contribution(s) to Marshall University’s SOJMC. The nominee, either through talent, treasure or activity, has made an outstanding impact upon the school.

The school has an enshrinement dinner and ceremony each fall to honor the inductees. Details about this fall’s ceremony will be announced at a later date.

For more information or questions about the SOJMC Hall of Fame, please contact the school at sojmc@marshall.edu.