Small gestures don’t capture the gifts given by this beloved Western figure

Brandy Warren

David “Boss” Whitaker is a frail, elderly man who now uses a walker to get around. Somedays he can speak. Other days he relies on his children to speak for him.

A few weeks ago, Boss was inducted into the Hall of Distinguished Alumni. He sat at a table surrounded by his family and friends.

Successful journalists from all over the country returned to tiny Bowling Green to watch their mentor be inducted.

I have never met Boss, but I have heard enough stories to make me feel like I’ve known him forever.

I know his work ethic.

I know he took a few journalism classes and built a nationally recognized program as both journalism department head and director of Student Publications.

I know he pushed for a photojournalism program, one that I’m comfortable with saying is the best in the nation.

I know his generosity. This is a man who would take hungry students home to dinner with his family. He made students part of his family and gave them a reason to want to do more and be better.

And I know his impact. Everyone involved in this program knows Boss. They know he is why they have jobs. They know he is why the program is successful.

Boss is sick now. And the look and tears on the faces of the people who know him best show just how important he is to this university.

He created, sometimes at the expense of time with his family, a program that Western places on the platform of national excellence.

This is why Western should stop seeking money and do something that’s right. It seems as if there has been discussion about naming rights for the new Mass Media and Technology Hall and the School of Journalism and Broadcasting since I’ve been on the Hill.

Journalists don’t make much money, so selling the naming rights to this shiny new building is difficult. The same goes for the school. The price tag has dwindled in the hopes that a person or company will fork over the cash.

Many of us saw the paper signs on doors during Homecoming saying something like “Your name could go here” posted on many doorways.

Thankfully, they were removed before many alumni arrived.

I guess I hate to think that this building and program, which houses national powerhouses in journalism and broadcasting, could be named after just anyone. For years, the program has been known as a scrappy school. We get it done and do it well. And until recently, I can’t remember us selling out for the money.

I hope we don’t now.

I’m suggesting we scrap the hopes of getting money and finally do what’s right. Name it after someone who really matters to this program.

Boss is one of the highest on that list.

I fear our building or school will be named after a person or company that may never have heard about Western until they were asked to give money.

Every other building on campus is named after someone who gave part of his or her life for this university. They made sacrifices. I’ve never heard of anyone who made more of a sacrifice for journalism on the Hill.

Journalists are professionals who do what they do because it’s right.

They make a comfortable living but don’t get rich in the business. And they’re rarely famous.

At the Hall of Distinguished Alumni induction ceremony, Boss’ son, David T. Whitaker, spoke for his father. He said journalists often don’t get credit where credit is often due. He said being inducted was for his father the ultimate byline.

He deserves more than a room named after him in the new building. He deserves two-foot letters engraved in stone. He deserves credit for the tradition of excellence and the recognition his “little program that could” brings to Western.

Those who know him think that would be the ultimate byline.

Brandy Warren is a senior print journalism major from Louisville.

The opinions expressed in this commentary do not reflect those of the Herald, Western or its administration.