1961 alumnus to receive journalism service award

Abbie Moeller

On the 20th anniversary of the James W. Schwartz Award for Distinguished Service to Journalism, the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication will present its very first award to Merrill J. Oster of Cedar Rapids.

Oster, a 1961 graduate of ISU, is founder and president of Oster Communications, Inc. in Cedar Rapids. His company provides agribusiness and futures information worldwide using several publications and the World Wide Web.

Oster has been recognized on several previous occasions for his entrepreneurship and initiative. He has been a leader in community organizations as well as in the business world.

The award was set up to honor James Schwartz, former head of the journalism and mass communication department, when he retired.

Schwartz said Oster is deserving of the award.

“He’s a very, very ambitious and hardworking person,” Schwartz said.

Although no specific qualifications exist for this award, winners share some characteristics, said Schwartz and members of the Greenlee School faculty.

“[The award] is for leadership in the craft and business of journalism. This person could be as a writer, reporter or businessperson,” said John Eighmey, chair of the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication.

It is traditional for ISU alumni to receive the award, but a few have been awarded to non-alumni, Schwartz said.

Eighmey said the recipient must have an impact on one’s industry, a statesman-like quality and a record of public service.

Schwartz said while he was pleased that Oster received the award, he is not involved in the selection of the winners, except for occasionally submitting a list of ideas.

“I’m as surprised as anyone when the selection is made,” Schwartz said.

He said after nominations are made, a committee reviews the information and presents it to the faculty in the school who eventually vote and select the recipient.

“I’ve had an opportunity to revisit many of my former students and people who have been very successful,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz said many of the recipients are his students or classmates, as well as people he became acquainted with as head of the journalism department at ISU.

“They are a very diverse lot. One common quality is they are all very successful people. They are innovators — people with ideas,” Schwartz said.

Anyone is welcome to attend the reception in the Scheman Building following the ISU homecoming game on October 10, said Wayne Davis, external affairs officer for the Greenlee School.

The school does present other awards periodically for both students and alumni.

In the fall, students in the school may be selected to receive the Jackson Prize for Excellence in Writing.

A Friend of the Department may also be named to recognize his or her contribution to the school.