Endowment named for former professor
A poet, a professor, a philosopher and a personality, Herb Taylor's legacy continues to live through the Herb and Peggy Taylor Endowment for Excellence in Media Communications thanks to the dedication of a former student.
Taylor, who died in 2004, was a professor at Southeast Missouri State University from 1975 to 1990. He taught Introduction to Broadcasting, Survey of Mass Communication and Radio Practicum. He also served as the first station manager at Southeast's listener-supported radio station KRCU when he helped launch it in 1976.
Taylor knew Walter Cronkite and was asked to appear before the U.S. Senate to share his opinion on cable television's affect on America. Along with fellow media professional Fred Wyman, he started one of the earliest national access television stations. In his 20s he also appeared in commercials and talk shows and as different characters on live television during its earlier years.
Jim Riley, Taylor's former student and founder of the Taylor Endowment, remembers the media expert fondly.
"My first semester, I remember one of my earliest experiences, walking down the hall and seeing a handwritten note that said 'To the best of my knowledge and belief this station will sign on March 19, 1976,' and I hardly got out of the Harold O. Grauel Building after that," Riley said.
Riley worked at KRCU during his years at Southeast and developed a close connection with Taylor. The two became close friends, and Riley calls Taylor one of his biggest mentors.
"I hope most people find themselves attracted to a certain instructor or set of classes and they're inspired by it and can hardly get enough of it," Riley said. "I hope that happens to everybody in college, it certainly happened to me."
Riley went into college undecided about what to study. He said Taylor's passion, commitment to the development of media and a mutual love for the Beatles attracted him to the professor and eventually communication as a career path.
Around 1981, the two went into business together. They, along with Clint Hasse and Scott Reese, founded Red Letter Communications, Inc.
Riley now serves as CEO at the marketing company, Hasse and Reese left to pursue other ventures. He enjoys the freedom of working in every medium and with a wide range of customers, from local to national, selling anything from outdoor power equipment to education.
In honor of Taylor's contributions to mass communication, Riley developed the idea behind the Taylor Endowment. According to Angela Wilson, Director of Development for the College of Liberal Arts at the Southeast Missouri University Foundation, there is almost $90,000 in the fund thanks to the support of the Riley family and Taylor's close associates.
"We coordinate and collaborate with the donor and the department of mass media to implement the different aspects of the endowment, as well as acquiring additional support to grow the endowment with the goal of assisting as many students as possible with scholarships, career mentoring and professional networking," Wilson said. "We are so appreciative of Jim Riley and his family for all they are doing to support our Southeast students."
The foundation hopes to grow the fund to $200,000 through contributions from Southeast alumni, former mass communication students and those who were impacted by Taylor. The money will go toward students in the mass media department, backing scholarships and internships as well as providing students with networking and mentoring opportunities.
The Taylor Endowment was launched Oct. 22 and money may be awarded as soon as the spring 2012 semester. Along with the endowment comes the Herb and Peggy Taylor Memorial Lecture Series, the first of which will be at noon on Wednesday, Nov. 30 in Rose Theatre. Riley will be the first speaker.
"He really influenced a lot of lives for the better, whether they pursued careers in media or not, and I think that's what college is about," Riley said.
"He was very inclusive. He always found room to include people from any background and he inspired people and he encouraged them, so that's the legacy we're trying to perpetuate."