Rather than expressing opinions about disturbing, if not illegal, actions by President Obama, challenging issues facing the city, the university and the state, the positives and negatives of the one-and-done exercise now being played by all-star university basketball players, the excessive salaries paid to all-star university basketball and football coaches compared to salaries paid to all-star faculty members and other topical matters, this writer prefers to focus this week on two unassuming but true all-stars in their respective fields.
Gordon Hibbard, of Manhattan, the president and chief executive officer of the Kansas 4-H Foundation, announced this week his intention to retire from his position later this year.
Bill Mayer, a former reporter, sports writer, sports editor, managing editor and executive editor of the Journal-World, died last week after a distinguished career in the newspaper business.
First, Gordon Hibbard.
Hibbard will step aside from his 4-H role after 15 years with the organization, six years as operations manager of Rock Springs 4-H Center and nine years as the head man for the 4-H Foundation.
The Kansas 4-H Foundation and 4-H program, a statewide, nonprofit organization, is the largest in the nation, with 80,000 young men and women engaged in numerous programs, projects and activities, including a new program for young Hispanic boys and girls.
It is, indeed, the nation’s flagship 4-H program.
The Rock Springs Center, located a few miles south of Junction City, is a relatively unknown gem to many Kansans. It’s located on a 735-acre site that serves as a camp and conference center, attracting 25,000 visitors a year. It is a huge, smooth-running operation with a big restaurant, 50 buildings, miles of paths and trails, a huge swimming pool and a spring that flows at 1,200 gallons per minute as its centerpiece.
In addition, the foundation supports awards, scholarships, publications and financial services, as well as overseeing the highly successful 4-H programs throughout the state. The foundation also owns the Clovia Scholarship House at Kansas State University.
Hibbard is a strong, loyal KSU alumnus and does a superb job in representing the foundation and the university. Prior to his 4-H association, he worked for four years as the administrative vice president of Kansas Farm Bureau.
As operations manager of Rock Springs Center and president and CEO of the 4-H Foundation, Hibbard has played a significant role in helping shape the values, aspirations, work habits and citizenship ethics of hundreds of thousands of young Kansans.
Hibbard, along with his predecessors, Merle Eyestone and Bill Riley, have performed an immeasurable service for Kansas by leading, strengthening and expanding the 4-H program.
Hibbard will be missed.
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Bill Mayer joined the Journal-World in 1950 as a reporter and, for the next 60 years, did a superb job in a wide variety of positions and assignments.
He was a hard worker and he expected all those in the newsroom, as well as throughout the plant, to be hard workers. He wanted reporters to take their responsibilities, and opportunities seriously, very seriously, but not make the mistake of taking themselves too seriously.
In his mind, a newspaper played a pivotal and important role in a community, and it was imperative those in the newsroom conduct themselves and do their reporting in a manner that merited the respect of the reader.
Mayer did not follow a five-days-a-week, eight-hours-a-day routine. Rather, his commitment and involvement was seven days a week, 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year.
Accuracy and honesty were demanded, and new reporters and photographers were told in no uncertain terms that termination could be expected if these conditions were violated.
The Kansas City, Kan., native and Wyandotte High School graduate was not only a hard worker; he was extremely loyal — loyal and supportive to Kansas University, the KU sports programs, Lawrence, the Journal-World and its employees.
However, his loyalty did not keep him from criticizing his university, various coaches or players or city, county or state officials, many of whom were close friends. In his sports columns and editorials, he reported what needed to be said, sometimes offending or angering friends — not deliberately, but rather because he thought it necessary to report the facts.
Mayer was proud of his military service and those who served their country. He joined the Army Air Corps soon after graduating from high school and, as a 20-year-old, served as a navigator-bombardier in a B-24 bomber flying missions over Germany. He downplayed his service and, in typical Mayer fashion, left explicit instructions about how his service should be reported after his death. All he wanted were a few basics, adding that “too many old cats try to picture themselves as Medal of Honor equivalent, and I don’t want anything that might flash too much ego.”
Mayer was a delightful companion and an excellent teacher, tutor and role model. He was proud of the Journal-World and proud of J-W alumni who distinguished themselves at other papers around the country. He was a gifted and prolific writer with a remarkable memory, and he always enjoyed a good joke or story.
Mayer was particularly proud of being a “newspaperman” rather than a “journalist,” and he always viewed “talking heads” with a bit of skepticism.
The newspaper business needs more Bill Mayers, and the youth of this country need more dedicated and talented individuals such as Gordon Hibbard.