In memory of Joan Duffy, one of the Cougar’s first female editors
This week, The Daily Cougar received some grave news. One of the Cougar’s first female editors, Joan Duffy, died at 61 of chronic lymphocytic leukemia.
In addition to her influential time at the Cougar, Duffy worked for United Press International, The Commercial Appeal, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and the beaumont Enterprise. As a fixture in Arkansas, she appeared weekly on the televised news program Arkansas Week.
Duffy is survived by her father, four siblings, a son, two stepchildren and three grandchildren.
In 2009, the Cougar emailed alumni asking for some memories of their time at the paper. Duffy responded with the following piece:
I found my life, my career, my best, lifelong friends at the Daily Cougar. And it happened because my application landed face up on the newsroom floor. The Fall 1970 editor Richard Stewart and Sports Editor Steve Pate bought a six-pack of beer for an evening of scrutinizing applications for the coming semester. There may have been more than one six-pack. They ended up throwing the apps up in the air those whose apps landed face up were invited to try out for reporter positions.
Painfully shy, I showed up for my tryout and a gruff news editor, Gloria Smith, handed me a flyer for the Tutorial Project, told me to go to the UC and get a story. I was petrified to approach the total strangers at the Tutorial Project table, but was more scared of Gloria, who looked like she could chew the ass off an elephant if you didn’t deliver copy on time. I meekly introduced myself to the Tutorial boys and as soon as they heard “Daily Cougar” they were pulling out a chair in welcome. It was the last shy moment I ever had.
I was sitting on the floor behind Micky Leland, wearing a string of chains across his t-shirted chest when Gov. Preston Smith addressed students in the UC. Mickey and his posse started tossing fake reefers on the stage and shouted for Smith to “Free Lee Otis,” the black guy in state prison facing a 30-year sentence for smoking pot. The governor’s security and always professional red jacketed Traffic and Security officers (serving under Larry Fultz) hustled ol’ Bubble Head out of the building, me running behind them. The governor said he couldn’t understand why the crowd was shouting about “frijoles.”
Before Watergate brought down Richard Nixon, Daily Cougar reporters “followed the money” and uncovered student funds misappropriated by the Student Association. The scandal led to the resignation or impeachment of SA President and a perpectual student who had manipulated the student administration to buy a video tape camera and other electronic equipment. I wasn’t involved in the stories, but Eric Gerber probably remembers. He was managing editor under Rita Bloom at the time. I think the reporter’s name was Peggy Reid. The stories caused much friction between the student government and the Cougar. Guidance and encouragement from department chair Campbell Titchenor kept us going.
Much social upheaval was going on the the early 1970s in the world, the country and on campus. I was editor the year a gay man ran for homecoming queen, sending the Greeks into a major tizzy, Every day during the campaign he danced with a boa constrictor a la Alice Cooper in the UC atrium. Macho guys occasionally pelted him with ice cream cones. I took numerous anonymous calls from closeted gays angered by the treatment. There were threats against the candidate and rumors of a fixed election. The aforementioned Larry Fultz asked us to be impartial observers of the vote. The snake guy lost by a handful of votes and was introduced on the homecoming field with other members of the queen’s court.