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We missed Jeff today…

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Originally ran November 18, 1970.

Members of the community and Marshall football players lay roses during the 44th annual Memorial Fountain Ceremony in commemoration of the 75 lives lost on the 1970.

Lexi Browning
Members of the community and Marshall football players lay roses during the 44th annual Memorial Fountain Ceremony in commemoration of the 75 lives lost on the 1970.

Jeffery Nathan or Nathan Jeffery?

I remember the first day in the beginning reporting class.

Was that student’s first name Jeffery or Nathan?

They both sounded like first and last names.

The name stood out. At that time – in September, 1969 – it was because of the unusual ring of the name alone.

But in a few days Jeffery became Jeff. The name didn’t stand out anymore just because of the “ring” of the name. Jeff Nathan was something special.

In Journalism 201 beginning reporting, students do very little actual reporting for the University newspaper. Work is mostly confined to classroom exercises.

I made a special notation beside Jeff Nathan’s name in my class book early in the semester. It was to remind me he was doing something special.

“He writes stories” was the note to myself. It a reminder that Jeff did more than required. He was not satisfied with writing only the required articles. He was out covering news events, interviewing and writing stories for publication.

The next semester came Journalism 202 – advanced reporting. This is the class where aspiring journalists really begin to get their feet wet. They write for actual publication.

The class requirement – two stories a week.

Again Jeff was something special.

I don’t need to look back at the class register. I can well remember what Jeff did. But it’s there in the class records – five, six, seven stories a week.

Reporting 202 was more than a class to Jeff.

Jeff not only covered his own assignments, but was always available, anxious and ready to do whatever else was needed.

He became a major part of The Parthenon.

Editors picked him “reporter of the week” several times. At the end of the semester there was no doubt in any editor’s mind as to who they would pick for “reporter of the semester.” They went through the process of discussing all the top writers, but they knew who it had to be. Jeff.

And Jeff carried the title well.

To some the honor of being one of the “reporters of the week” didn’t mean that much.

But to Jeff it did. He was proud of it.

“You know many people recognized my picture in the paper and said ‘you’re the reporter of the week’,” Jeff once remarked.

Then came last spring.

Jeff was one of the first to sign-up for a reporting summer internship on a daily newspaper. He wanted to be near home during the summer so he worked for the Marietta, Ohio, newspaper.

It was no surprise last September when Jeff was one of the first students back on campus anxious to start the new publication year with The Parthenon.

Jeff was a natural to be sports editor.

Again, he wore the title well.

Some often joked with Jeff that he should install a bed in the newsroom. He was almost always there except when covering an assignment. He was there long after his paper had gone to press. He was working on a sports column for the next day –perhaps another “Feerless Fosdick” prediction on college football game outcomes.

“We should call this Jeff Nathan edition,” one copy editor commented one day when Jeff had written about half the copy for that day’s newspaper.

Then came the Oct. 8 disturbance near campus.

This had nothing to do with sports, but Jeff was one of the first ones on the scene to cover for his newspaper. He joined the handful of other editors working all night to put out a special edition.

And the Thundering Herd football team – Jeff stood by them all the way.

The record was three wins and six losses.

Jeff as “Feerless Fosdick” predicted a win almost every week. The two times he didn’t, he had The Herd losing by only three points and then he hoped he would be wrong.

“Miami-20, Marshall-7 – I hope I’m wrong,” he wrote, “but Miami’s defense appears to be too much for The Herd. Miami’s the pick, but with all the spirit generate by the ‘Buffalo Babes’ watch for a possible upset.”

Sports editors for the school paper are expected to got to all the home games and some away games, but few have made it to every game.

Jeff did.

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1 Comment

One Response to “We missed Jeff today…”

  1. Charles Ferguson on November 23rd, 2016 12:39 pm

    Ralph…I remember Jeff very well. We shared a desk in many “J” classes. You and other professors honored me after his death as first recipient of the Jeff Nathan Memorial Award for Reporter of the Year.

    Forty six years later, after reporting/editor slots at The Herald-Dispatch, Charleston Daily Mail, the Tampa Tribune and 27 years in public affairs and HR management at Kentucky Power Company…I am still humbled at Jeff’s friendship and constant memory of many things…including my professors’ decision I was worthy of such an honor.

    Charles Ferguson
    Ashland, KY

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