For Immediate Release:
Christine DiGangi, SPJ Communications Coordinator, 317-927-8000 ext. 205, firstname.lastname@example.org
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Robert Leger, assistant editorial page editor at the Arizona Republic, has been awarded the Wells Memorial Key, the highest honor for a Society of Professional Journalists member. Leger received the award at the President’s Installation Banquet on Sept. 22 at the Excellence in Journalism conference in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
The Wells Memorial Key was first awarded in 1913 to honor Chester Wells, the Society’s second national president, who died in office at age 26. It is awarded to a member for outstanding service to the Society during the preceding year or over a period of years. SPJ’s Executive Committee selects all recipients.
“During his presidency, the organization transitioned to a new executive director, and he stabilized the Society’s finances,” outgoing president John Ensslin said when presenting Leger with the jeweled key.
Earlier in the evening, Ensslin announced that Leger will take over as president of the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation, SPJ’s educational foundation, replacing longtime president Steve Geimann.
Leger has been a member of SPJ since 1985, served as national president from 2002 to 2003, and has served on the board of the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation since 2000. He is the immediate past-president of the First Amendment Coalition of Arizona.
In his acceptance speech when he became national SPJ president in 2002, Leger reflected on the impact the Sept. 11 attacks had on journalism and open government, highlighting the importance of SPJ’s fight for press freedoms that continues today.
A decade later, Leger shared more inspiring words when addressing the attendees of the President’s Installation Banquet.
“This is tremendous,” he said, after his colleagues ushered him to the stage with a standing ovation. “It’s hard to imagine in 1989, I walked into the office of the president of the Southwest Missouri Chapter and asked, ‘Who is going to take over as president tonight?’ and he said, ‘Oh yeah, I’ve been meaning to talk to you.’ Since then, I’ve been hooked.”
“For those who are worried about the future of journalism, for those of us who listen to our critics, … this is a recharge night,” Leger concluded, thanking everyone and once again drawing a standing ovation.
Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. For more information about SPJ, please visit www.spj.org.