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Because there will not be a national convention in 2024, SPJ will resume awarding the Wells Memorial Key in 2025.

Wells Memorial Key
for Outstanding Service to the Society

Submit your nomination online

Because there will not be a national convention in 2024, SPJ will resume awarding the Wells Memorial Key in 2025. Nominations will open in early 2025.

Chester 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.

2023 Honoree
Bill Ketter
Read Press Release

Past Honorees
2022 Dave Aeikens
2021 Kathryn Foxhall
2020 John Ensslin
2019 Rebecca Tallent
2019 Linda Hall
2018 Andrew Seaman
2017 Bruce W. Sanford
2016 David Cuillier
2015 Sue Porter
2014 Kevin Smith
2013 David E. Carlson
2012 Robert Leger
2011 Al Cross
2010 Irwin Gratz
2009 Terry Harper
2008 Bill McCloskey
2007 Betsy Ashton
2006 Fred Winfield Brown, Jr.
2005 Gordon "Mac" McKerral
2004 Ian Marquand
2003 Sally Lehrman
2002 Kyle Niederpruem
2002 Julie Grimes
2001 Steve Geimann
2000 Dick Kleeman
1999 Peter Sussman
1998 June Anderson Almquist
1997 Paul Davis
1996 Georgiana Vines
1995 Lucy Dalglish
1994 Frank Gibson
1993 Carolyn Carlson
1992 Reginald Stuart
1991 Phil Record
1990 Paul McMasters
1989 Kenneth C. Reiley
1988 David B. Offer
1987 Lillian Lodge Kopenhaver
1986 R. T. Kingman
1985 Ralph Izard
1984 Jean Otto
1984 Staley McBrayer
1984 Maynard Hicks
1984 Ralph Otwell
1984 Bert Bostrom
1983 Casey Bukro
1982 Alf Goodykoontz
1981 Russell E. Hurst
1981 Howard S. Dubin
1980 Robert Lewis
1979 William Small
1978 Warren K. Agee
1977 H. G. (Buddy) Davis
1976 Henry Rieger
1975 James L. Julian
1974 William T. Kong
1973 James S. Copley
1972 Charles E. Barnum
1971 William B. Arthur
1970 Robert M. White II
1969 Eugene C. Pulliam
1968 Theodore F. Koop
1967 Alfred W. Balk
1966 Buren McCormack
1965 Walter Burroughs
1964 Robert J. Cavagnaro
1963 James A. Byron
1961 Donald D. Hoover
1960 Sol Taishoff
1959 Bernard Kilgore
1958 Mason Rossiter Smith
1956 Charles C. Clayton
1955 Alvin E. Austin
1954 John M. McClelland, Jr.
1953 Floyd Arpan
1952 William Kostka
1951 Neal Van Sooy
1950 John T. Bills
1949 Luther Huston
1948 Kenneth R. Marvin
1947 Carl B. Kesler
1946 George A. Brandenburg
1945 Albert W. Bates
1944 Palmer Hoyt
1943 Elmo Scott Watson
1942 Willard R. Smith
1941 Floyd Shoemaker
1940 John L. Meyer
1939 Ralph L. Peters
1938 Albert W. Bates
1937 Tully Nettleton
1936 Carl P. Miller
1935 John E. Stempel
1934 Walter Humphrey
1933 Charles E. Snyder
1932 Franklin M. Reck
1931 John G. Earhart
1930 Edwin V. O’Neel
1929 Robert B. Tarr
1928 James A. Stuart
1927 Lawrence W. Murphy
1926 Roy L. French
1925 Donald H. Clark
1924 George F. Pierrot
1923 Ward A. Neff
1922 T. Hawley Tapping
1921 Lee A. White
1920 Kenneth C. Hogate
1919 Felix M. Church
1915 Roger Steffan
1915 Carl Getz
1914 Lee A. White
1913 Laurence H. Sloan

Each year, a member who is judged to have served the Society in the most outstanding fashion during the preceding year or over a period of years is presented SPJ’s highest honor for a member, the Wells Memorial Key.

The Award honors Chester Wells, Sigma Delta Chi’s second national president, who died in 1913 while in office.

SPJ executive officers select honorees. The Society may present one Wells Memorial Key in any given year unless the executive committee agrees no candidates are available for that year.


Nominees must be a member of SPJ. Nominations may be submitted by any SPJ member or chapter.


Nomination form should be accompanied by a letter(s) of recommendation that addresses the nominee’s contributions and/or service to the Society of Professional Journalists and why the nominee is deserving of this national recognition. Self-nominations are not permitted.

Winner Announcement and Presentation

Honoree will be announced in the fall.


All entries should be submitted no later than June 1.

For More Information

For more information contact SPJ Headquarters at 317/927-8000 or by email: awards@spj.org