Broadcasting professor ends 14 year career at conclusion of semester

Kayla Boyd

At the conclusion of the 2014 spring semester, WKU’s Journalism & Broadcasting Department will witness the retirement of one of their longest tenured professors, Jim LeTourneau.

During the past 14 years, LeTourneau has served as an assistant professor, transitioning with the school from an office in the Fine Arts Center to Mass Media and Technology Hall when it opened four years ago.

“I started out teaching what professors didn’t want to teach,” he said.

What other professors didn’t want to teach came in the form of broadcast journalism introduction courses. Throughout the years, however, he’s taught eight or nine different classes.

LeTourneau’s background in radio and television news gave him an advantage. Before arriving at WKU, he worked in the field of broadcast journalism as a reporter in Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, and the Great Lakes areas.

“I saw a big lack of what students needed to know,” he said. “I spent a quarter of a century in real life commercial broadcast journalism. I knew what real life jobs are looking for.”

That disconnect between collegiate programs and professional journalism prompted his return to school to earn his master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin in 1999.

After four final interviews with different universities, WKU made the first offer and ultimately hired someone who would transform the broadcast department for the better.

LeTourneau touts countless connections within the broadcast and journalism field; taking great care in helping his students find careers.

“Students I’ve taught now have careers,” he said. “I’m paid to give my students what they need to start their career.”

Rebecca Ollier, a WKU alumna from Cincinnati, is now a producer at WYMT in Hazard. She graduated in May 2013 and attributes much of her success to LeTourneau’s classes.

“I am a producer now and I remember the first day of class he asked all the people who wants to be on TV,” she said. “I raised my hand and he said most of you will either change your mind or be a producer because that is where the jobs are. Anyone would hire a producer because there aren’t many.”

LeTourneau’s lasting impression has helped Ollier as she produces her 11 p.m. show.

“As a producer now, I often think WWLTD,” she said. “What would JLT do? It really helps a lot.”

One accomplishment LeTourneau is most proud of at WKU was establishing contact with the American University of Rome, allowing the journalism and broadcast department to broaden its reach.

In the summer of 2013, he facilitated a five-week study abroad trip to Rome. He said stories and packages written and produced during that trip won several awards for their writing, content and execution.

“I hope other professors not just in broadcasting will take advantage of the program,” he said. “Rome itself is the classroom. There’s so much to see there.”

LeTourneau will return to Madison, Wisconsin after he retires. He plans to dabble in adjunct work at the University of Wisconsin, serve as a liaison for the Madison Police Department and travel.

Ollier said LeTourneau was one of her favorite professors.

“The first time I had him as a teacher I was a sophomore and I was scared to death,” she said. “He was so intimidating.”

He became Ollier’s mentor and strived to make her a better journalist.

“I don’t know what I would have done without him as a professor and I am so grateful for the time I spent with him in his classroom and with the student newscasts,” she said. “Everyone can learn something from him whether it is about life or journalism.”