Jack Marsh, executive director of the Al Neuharth Media Center and Freedom Forum vice president for diversity programs, is the 2007 recipient of the John R. Williams Award. Presented annually by the Native American Recruitment & Retention Committee, this award is given to an individual, staff or program in recognition of significant contributions to American Indian students at USD.
"It is humbling and inspiring to receive an award named for John Williams because it honors John's legacy of leadership, innovation and his unwavering commitment to the education and success of Native people," Marsh said. "This award also affirms the unique partnership of USD and the Freedom Forum, working together to advance diversity in higher education and in journalism."
In 2001, Marsh founded the American Indian Journalism Institute (AIJI) providing American Indian college students nationwide with an opportunity to study journalism on the USD campus. Thanks to funding from the Freedom Forum, students earn four college credits for completing the academic program and a $500 scholarship when they resume full-time classes in the fall. Through AIJI, Marsh has introduced 142 Native American students to journalism, including 62 who went on to paid newsroom internships and close to 20 who work as professional journalists today. He also assists in organizing the Native American Journalism Career Conference at Crazy Horse Memorial, which introduces Native American students from high schools, tribal colleges and universities to careers in journalism. Chuck Swick, chairperson of the American Indian Recruitment and Retention Committee, will present the award to Marsh during AIJI 2007 in June.
The John R. Williams Award was established in 2002 to honor the many contributions made by Williams to USD throughout the years. Williams, who grew up on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, earned a doctorate in education from USD in 1975. While at USD, Williams developed, directed and taught in the Alcohol & Drug Abuse Studies Department from 1973 until his death in September 2001.