Mary Hartman’s energy, enthusiasm inspires journalism teachers

Mary Hartman, OSP Executive Director 1975-84

Mary Hartman, OSP Executive Director 1975-84

By Rob Melton
Mary S. Hartman, Oregon Scholastic Press executive director from 1975-1984, was a champion of student media during the heydey of scholastic media in Oregon. She trained and supported a generation of award-winning high school journalism teachers and students with enthusiasm, gusto, and intelligence.

During this period of Oregon scholastic journalism, more than 45 newspaper programs were recognized every year for winning NSPA Five-Star All-Americans and CSPA Medalists, the highest rating possible in regular national competition. Some publications were selected for the highest honors in high school journalism. Regional and National Pacemakers from NSPA and Gold Grown and Silver Crown Awards from CSPA are the Pulitzer Prize of national high school journalism.

She was a talent scout and trainer for promising school of journalism students who she felt would make great teachers and journalists. Mary Hartman was the executive director of Oregon Scholastic Press at the University of Oregon, and her husband Barrie Hartman was managing editor of The Eugene Register-Guard. The award honors the can-do spirit and tireless support Mary offered Oregon journalism advisers for many years. She maintained  a vast network of journalism contacts in all parts of Oregon and understood the news business as well as anyone. Prior to becoming executive secretary of Oregon Scholastic Press, she had worked with powerhouse OSP executive director Alyce Sheetz.

She often said she was only a step ahead of her students in teaching a required Methods of Teaching Journalism class, but was a gifted teacher herself. But that was just the beginning of the relationship. Once you were a teacher, she depended upon her former students to help with the annual high school press day, which attracted more than 1,500 students from across the state every October. While she often began a sentence with “I’m sure you know more about this than I…” she had a gift for cutting through nonsense and getting straight to the point, although asking a really good question was more her style. She made you think.

She was also a great judge of people, and her descriptions of people were always insightful. (See her tribute to Alyce Sheetz.) In my first year of teaching, she recruited me to speak at the 1979 fall press day, and described me in the program as “the idea-a-minute guy,” a description that fits so well even today. She revealed something about me that I had not yet realized about myself. She was surprising and amazing and saw things for what they really were and acted accordingly. That’s the Mary we all knew and loved.

Mary was the experienced, knowledgeable voice on the other end of the telephone for adviser problems big and small. Through her contacts in the school of journalism, she quickly got answers and gave advice on a wide variety of issues, from press law to feature writing. She also wrote and edited a monthly newsletter which was sent out state-wide to every high school and middle school in Oregon. She and OSP became the one-stop shopping source for information about high school journalism.

More than a decade after her departure to Colorado where her husband had been named a publisher of the Boulder Daily Camera, dozens of Oregon journalism teachers attending a JEA national convention in Denver gathered at the Hartman home to recognize them for their enduring legacy of high school journalism in Oregon. Because of the amazing work she did with teachers while at UO School of Journalism, the Oregon High School Teacher of the Year is named after her and is accompanied with funds from The Hartman Trust.

Barrie and Mary Hartman’s legacy continues through their children, Janelle and Todd, who both work in the newspaper business. Janelle works in Oregon and Todd works in Florida, and through their endowment to Northwest Scholastic Press for the Oregon Journalism Adviser of the Year.

It’s hard to believe that Oregon schools in the not-too-distant past had more successful journalism programs than almost anywhere else in the United States — a record of excellence that will stand the test of time. It is a tribute to the Hartman legacy in Oregon.