Blystone to receive JEA’s highest honor, the Carl Towley Award
By Erinn Harris, MJE, JEA awards chair
In its strictest sense, retirement means an individual has ceased to work. In her retirement, the 2022 Carl Towley Award recipient, Jane Blystone, Ph.D., MJE, has done quite the opposite, instead choosing to lean into a life of servant leadership.
An advocate for scholastic journalism, Blystone worked as a high school teacher for 34 years and in higher education for nine years, as a graduate program director. Currently, she is an English professor at Mercyhurst University and serves as an elected member of her local school board. A decorated educator, Blystone has dedicated her time and talents to the JEA certification committee, the Scholastic Press Rights committee, and currently serves as the Mentoring Program chair, where she has mentored and encouraged mentees from all over the world.
“Our connection developed during an unprecedented time where everything had to be virtual, not to mention that I was out of the country, teaching in Guatemala,” Blystone’s mentee and Christian Academy of Guatemala adviser Jackie Davis, CJE, said. “Whether it was a simple email to check in on me or eagerly agreeing to meet with my class virtually online as a guest speaker, she always supported me to grow and develop skills to succeed as a new journalism educator.”
In addition to supporting scholastic journalism advisers worldwide, Blystone is also a fierce advocate for their students.
“When my students fought senseless censorship, she contacted me and both of the students who led the fight to restore editorial control to the staff,” retired Texas adviser Lori Oglesbee said. “When she met Neha and Haley in person the first time in South Carolina, the girls knew exactly who she was and chattered about their appreciation for her support. She remembered every detail. Leaders like Jane make a lasting impact.”
Perhaps the greatest impact Blystone has made over the course of her career and service to JEA is her friendship.
“I hope that each one of you is her friend on social media, because if you are, you know you have found a friend for life,” retired California adviser Jim Jordan said. “Undoubtedly she is the greatest cheerleader for all teachers, all advisers and all students not only in the realm of scholastic journalism but in the world of education.”
And the world of education needs more people like Jane Blystone, cheering it on and lifting it up.
“In a world where people are polarized, combative, and negative so much of the time, Jane Blystone is a beacon of light and love and support,” Jordan said.
In 2011, the Pennsylvania School Press Association named its annual Student Journalist of the Year Scholarship after Blystone, fitting recognition for an educator known for her tireless encouragement and support of students, advisers and scholastic journalism as a whole.
“As I write this letter in support of her nomination for the Carl Towley Award, I checked on what the selection committee will be seeking,” Center for Scholastic Journalism Director Candace Bowen, MJE, said. “They want their winner to be ‘unusually beneficial and of superior value to the national JEA and to scholastic journalism.’
Founded in 1924, JEA supports free and responsible scholastic journalism by providing resources and educational opportunities, promoting professionalism, encouraging and rewarding student excellence and teacher achievement, and an atmosphere which encompasses diversity yet builds unity. It is headquartered at Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas.