Society of Professional Journalists
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Chester C. Wells: His Story

Our Mission
The Society of Professional Journalists is dedicated to the perpetuation of a free press as the cornerstone of our nation and our liberty.

To ensure that the concept of self-government outlined by the U.S. Constitution remains a reality into future centuries, the American people must be well informed in order to make decisions regarding their lives, and their local and national communities.

It is the role of journalists to provide this information in an accurate, comprehensive, timely and understandable manner.

It is the mission of the Society of Professional Journalists:

— To promote this flow of information.
— To maintain constant vigilance in protection of the First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and of the press.
— To stimulate high standards and ethical behavior in the practice of journalism.
— To foster excellence among journalists.
— To inspire successive generations of talented individuals to become dedicated journalists.
— To encourage diversity in journalism.
— To be the pre-eminent, broad-based membership organization for journalists.
— To encourage a climate in which journalism can be practiced freely.

Home > About SPJ > SPJ History

About the Society
History of the Society

Founded: SPJ was founded in 1909 at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., as a journalistic fraternity known as Sigma Delta Chi. In 1988, the organization officially changed its name to the Society of Professional Journalists.

Membership: SPJ is a professional organization that includes broadcast, print and online journalists, journalism educators , and students interested in journalism as a career.

Tax-exempt status: The Society is a not-for-profit organization exempt from federal income tax under Section 501(c)6 of the Internal Revenue Code.

Chester C. Wells:
His True Life Story

Chester C. Wells, Sigma Delta Chi’s second national president, is remembered today through the Wells Memorial Key, which is the highest honor SPJ can bestow on a member. But little else about his legacy has been documented. Journalist Gordon Govier set out to discover the story of Chester Wells, who was elected president at the second national convention of Sigma Delta Chi, held in Madison, Wisc., in May 1913. This is what he found.

SPJ Presidents

1912-13  Laurence H. Sloan
1913  Chester Wells
1913-14  Sol Lewis
1914-16  Roger F. Steffan
1916-19  Robert C. Lowry
1919-20  Felix M. Church
1920-21  Lee A. White
1921-22  Kenneth C. Hogate
1922-23  Ward A. Neff
1923-24  T. Hawley Tapping
1924-25  George F. Pierrot
1925-26  Donald H. Clark
1926-27  Roy L. French
1927-28  James A. Stuart
1928-29  Robert B. Tarr
1929-30  Edwin V. O'Neel
1930-31  Franklin M. Reck
1931-33  Charles E. Snyder
1933-34  Walter Humphrey
1934-35  John E. Stempel
1935-36  Carl P. Miller
1936-37  Tully Nettleton
1937-38  Ralph L. Peters
1938-39  George A. Brandenburg
1939-40  Elmo Scott Watson
1940-41  Irving Dilliard
1941-43  Palmer Hoyt
1943-45  Willard R. Smith
1945-46  Barry Faris
1946-47  George W. Healy, Jr.
1947-49  Luther Huston
1948-49  Neal Van Sooy
1949-50  Carl R. Kesler
1950-51  John M. McClelland, Jr.
1951-52  Charles C. Clayton
1952-53  Lee Hills
1953-54  Robert U. Borwn
1954-55  Alden C. Waite
1955-56  Mason Rossiter Smith
1956-57  Sol Taishoff
1957-58  Robert J. Cavagnaro
1958-59  James A. Byron
1959-60  V.M. Newton, Jr.
1960-61  E.W. Scripps II
1961-62  Buren McCormack
1962-63  Walther Burroughs
1963-64  Theodore F. Koop
1964-65  Ralph Sewell
1965-66  Raymond L. Spangler
1966-67  Robert M. White II
1967-68  Staley McBrayer
1968-69  William B. Arthur
1969-70  Frank Angelo
1970-71  Robert W. Chandler
1971-72  Guy T. Ryan
1972-73  William C. Payette
1973-74  Ralph Otwell
1974-75  William Small
1975-76  Robert McCord
1976-77  Richard Leonard
1977-78  Alf Goodykoontz
1978-79  Phil Dessauer
1979-80  Jean Otto
1980-81  Howard Graves
1981-82  Charles R. Novitz
1982-83  Steven R. Dornfeld
1983-84  Phil Record
1984-85  Frank Sutherland
1985-86  Robert Lewis
1986-87  Robert H. Wills
1987-88  James F. Plante
1988-89  Paul M. Davis
1989-90  Carolyn S. Carlson
1990-91  Frank Gibson
1991-92  Ernie Ford; Georgiana Vines
1992-93  Georgiana Vines
1993-94  Paul McMasters
1994-95  Reginald Stuart
1995-96  G. Kelly Hawes
1996-97  Steve Geimann
1997-98  Fred Brown
1998-99  Wendy S. Myers
1999-00  Kyle Niederpruem
2000-01  Ray Marcano
2001-02   Al Cross
2002-03  Robert Leger
2003-04   Gordon “Mac” McKerral
2004-05   Irwin Gratz
2005-06   David Carlson
2006-07   Christine Tatum
2007-08   Clint Brewer
2008-09   Dave Aeikens
2009-10   Kevin Smith
2010-11   Hagit Limor
2011-12   John Ensslin
2012-13   Sonny Albarado
2013-14   David Cuillier

Historic Moments
A timeline following SPJ’s development

Founded as Sigma Delta Chi on DePauw University Campus, Greencastle, Ind.

Campus chapters founded at University of Kansas, University of Michigan, and Denver University

First National Convention, Greencastle, Ind.

First Quill published, 20 pages in a 6x9 inch format

First Wells Key award presented to Laurence Sloan

Change from Honorary Fraternity to Professional Fraternity

First professional chapters in Milwaukee, Seattle, Detroit, Des Moines, and Chicago.

First Code of Ethics adopted.

First National Headquarters opens, 836 Exchange Ave., Chicago, Ill.

SDX Awards started as Distinguished Service Awards.

First historic site in journalism marked by SDX, Vermont Gazette, Bennington, Vt.

First fellowships awarded to Erwin Canham, Barry Faris, and Harry Grant.
Outstanding Pro Chapter recognized, Fort Worth, Texas

Fifty-year convention, Indianapolis

Sigma Delta Chi reorganized from a fraternity to a professional society
Regional system established with 11 regions

First full-time Quill editor, Clarence Schlaver

Distinguished Teaching in Journalism Award first given to A.L. Higginbotham, University of Nevada

Decision to admit women made at San Diego convention. Two days later, 10 women were initiated into the St. Bonaventure Chapter

Student representatives added to board structure

Caroline Ross Pokrzywinski, first woman elected to the board

Mark of Excellence awards established

Organization name changed to Society of Professional Journalists, Sigma Delta Chi

New Code of Ethics adopted

First Outstanding Campus Chapter recognized, University of Illinois

First Amendment Award given to Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

Pulliam Fellowship first awarded to Ross MacKenzie, Richmond, Va., News-Leader

First female president elected, Jean Otto

First Distinguished Campus Advisers named: Paul Atkins, West Virginia University; Merrill Bankester, Memphis State University; James Highland, Western Kentucky University; Robert Warner, University of Wyoming

Project Watchdog initiated. It began as a public service advertising campaign aimed at educating the public about the free press in America

Barney Kilgore FOI Internship first awarded to Sharon Applebaum, University of Kansas and David Freedman, Columbia University

Seventy-five year Convention, Indianapolis
Code of Ethics revision

Code of Ethics revision

Name changed to Society of Professional Journalists.

National headquarters moved to Greencastle, Ind.

Project Sunshine started. A grassroots effort aimed at maintaining open records and open meetings laws in accord with the 1976 Government in the Sunshine Act

New Code of Ethics adopted

National Headquarters moved to Indianapolis.

Copyright © 1996-2014 Society of Professional Journalists. All Rights Reserved. Legal

Society of Professional Journalists
Eugene S. Pulliam National Journalism Center
3909 N. Meridian St.
Indianapolis, IN 46208
317/927-8000 | Fax: 317/920-4789

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