After years of service, Stanton saying goodbye
Professor Ted Stanton can be seen helping communication students get the internship of their dreams as the Internship Supervisor for the School of Communication, or wheeling his trusty bike around campus, but come fall the professor who has helped mold the future of aspiring journalists for 25 years won’t be here anymore – he’s retiring.
Stanton took a semi-retirement package six years ago that would keep him on for half-pay to teach two courses. The package was to expire in five years, but Stanton asked to stay an extra year to help raise money and stay on teaching and running the internship program. With the school year’s conclusion, the communication school fixture is setting his sights on what’s to come.
"I’m interested to see how it’s going to work out," Stanton said. "August 31 is when it happens, and that will be the first time in just two months shy of 50 years that I’ve not had a steady job with a regular pay check coming in."
The paychecks may have been nice, but they are not what Stanton will miss most about his job – it’s the effect he’s been able to have on students’ lives.
"The teaching is the best part of the job. The students have been great," Stanton said. "These are all bright, interesting people, and if you’re going to go into the news business you’ll find these are the kinds of people who are going to work on newspapers."
Stanton’s career in journalism has taken him across the nation – working as a writer and editor at the Wall Street Journal for 13 years; serving as managing editor at The Daily Idahonian for 12 years and teaching at the University of Houston.
Transitioning from a big-name paper to a small town publication in Idaho could have been a daunting task, but Stanton found similarities in both jobs to help the adjustment.
"What was interesting was that all the problems of the big cities were in Moscow, Idaho also," he said.
When Stanton first arrived, the city was trying to find a location for an unwanted landfill, his daughters’ classmates were perishing in car accidents at an alarming rate and after work he dealt with problems at home.
Still, no matter how much he had to struggle with balancing his family life and career, he loved the newspaper business.
"One of the great pleasures about the newspaper business is that it attracts bright, almost universally, funny people, so the working atmosphere and the friends you make are terrific," Stanton said. "I’ve been here 25 years and my best friends still generally are newspaper people."
While working at The Daily Idahonian, Stanton also taught part time at the University of Idaho for 11 years before taking a sabbatical and coming to UH in the 1979-1980 academic year as a visiting professor.
Two years after first teaching at UH, Stanton was hired as a professor when a position opened. He has been affecting students lives, such as former student Paul Binz’s, ever since.
"I am almost nobody’s idea of a student," Binz, editor of the Valley Morning Star in Harlingen, Texas, said. "But because Ted Stanton saw potential in me, I have achieved some success in the field of newspaper work. He literally changed the course of my life."
As a student in Stanton’s first-year news reporting class, Binz found himself disheartened after missing an assignment and soon stopped attending class. Stanton’s made a personal phone call to the dejected student and his words encouraged Binz to return to class.
"He told me he thought I added something to the class – Who could resist a personal invitation like that?" Binz said. "So I did go back, caught up on my work and completed the course."
Stanton was not only an encouragement to his students, but he also became a standard to follow, especially to Michael Smith, associate editor of the Galveston County Daily News.
"I thought he exemplified in character, personality and practice what a good journalist should be," Smith said. "I’ve come to think like him: good journalists and good papers should be erudite, well-read, well-traveled and have a little polish, without being stuffy, pompous, aloof or elitist."
Many of the awards Stanton has garnered over the years were a direct result of the relationship he’s had with his students. Stanton received the George Magner Award For Excellence in Undergraduate Advising and was named Outstanding Journalism Educator of the Year by the Houston Press Club.
The Houston Press Club also honored Stanton with a Lifetime Achievement award for service to the profession, and the Houston Young Lawyers Association awarded the Liberty Bell Award to Stanton for outstanding service to the profession and community.
Last fall, the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication awarded the Robert P. Knight Award for Multicultural Recruitment to Stanton because he created the Houston Chronicle-University of Houston Summer High School Journalism Workshop and supervised it for 17 years.
The program brought in 20 rising high school seniors for four weeks in the summer. Five mornings a week, participants took classes taught by Chronicle staff members in reporting, editing, editorial writing, feature writing, graphics and photography.
Stanton also reached out to high school students when he created and conducted the First Amendment Workshop, an afternoon session that assembled 500 high school and college students with 50 journalism professionals for a round table discussion of First Amendment issues.
Post-retirement plans are still up in the air for Stanton, but for now he’s going back to New York for his 55th college reunion at Columbia University, where he earned a master’s degree in journalism alongside iconic figures such as Howard Simons, the managing editor of the Washington Post during the Watergate scandal, who was portrayed by Martin Balsam in the 1976 film All the President’s Men.
No matter what job title he holds, Stanton will find a way to affect the students who made his teaching experience so enjoyable.
Next semester Stanton will no longer be teaching at the University of Houston, but he will be back to critique and help improve The Daily Cougar.
Even past his retirement, Stanton’s influence will continue to influence the newspaper business for years to come through the lives of his students.
"If I have done any good down here in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, I can trace much of it back to Ted Stanton – he cared, and that made all the difference," Binz said.