A national leader in journalism and education, Joe Foote – dean and Edward L. Gaylord Chair in the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication – has been named the 2015 recipient of the $20,000 Otis Sullivant Award for Perceptivity at the University of Oklahoma.
The Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation and the selection committee, which is composed of faculty and staff members, students and alumni, makes the selection.
“Joe Foote is exactly the right person to receive this award,” said OU First Lady Molly Shi Boren, who chairs the selection committee. “He represents the best values of our university, and – as a leader in our community with great perception – has put those values into action.”
“When Edith Gaylord established this award, she hoped it would recognize a member of the University of Oklahoma community who shared the same forward thinking and acute attention to detail as her dear friend Otis Sullivant,” said Bob Ross, president and CEO of Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation. “Dean Foote exemplifies the perceptivity Edith was hoping to acknowledge.”
The late Edith Kinney Gaylord of Oklahoma City established the $500,000 Sullivant Prize endowment shortly before her death in January 2001. The award honors the late longtime Oklahoma journalist Otis Sullivant, who covered Oklahoma and national political news for several decades and was known for his ability to analyze and accurately predict political trends. Edith Kinney Gaylord was a longtime supporter of many OU programs and a pioneering journalist. She was the first woman reporter to join the New York bureau of the Associated Press, and was the second president and one of the founders of the Women’s National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
The award is presented to a faculty or staff member at OU who exhibits “keen perceptivity.” The agreement establishing the prize also states that a person “who manifests intuitiveness, instant comprehension, empathy, is observant and interprets from experience” should be selected. The benefit to society and the broader community, which comes from the insight of the recipient, also is considered.
Foote has served as dean of the Gaylord College for almost a decade. His service spans two-thirds of the lifetime of the young college that was elevated from school status in 2000. His leadership recently resulted in the College being named one of the top 10 journalism programs in the nation by the Radio Television Digital News Association and TVWeek.com.
“Having been around when Otis Sullivant was known throughout Oklahoma as the most perceptive political reporter this state has ever known, I feel confident that if he were around today, Otis would be seconding this nomination himself,” said Carol Burr, immediate past Director of Foundations Publications in seconding Foote’s nomination. “It is too easy to proclaim, as many do, that newspapers are dead and with them the need for journalists,” Burr said. “Joe Foote fights for the integrity of the written and spoken word, and its ability to safeguard the information that reaches and educates a public in danger of losing the freedom of an informed press.”
Known as a student-centered dean, Foote has been passionate about increasing professional opportunities for students on and off campus. He founded the Gaylord Ambassadors program, an undergraduate leadership group that has become a model on campus. Foote led the college to create Lindsey+Asp, one of the nation’s premier student-led advertising and public relations agencies and “Sooner Sports Pad,” a live, weekly television broadcast to 10 million television households on Fox Sports Oklahoma and Fox Sports Southwest.
In his nomination letter, Tripp Hall said, Vice President for University Development, “Though Dean Foote wears many hats and the demands on his time are great, he never is too busy for students, spending hours outside the classroom visiting, mentoring and interacting with them, writing letters of recommendation, sharing stories, ideas and advice.” This letter also said, “He makes a lasting impression on these students. As one journalism staff member said: ‘If students took the time to meet and visit with Joe, they never forgot it.’”
Foote has been a key leader in the university’s “digital initiative” and was an early advocate for innovation in courseware and alternative teaching modes. Under his leadership, Gaylord College was one of the first university programs in the nation to be designated as an “Apple Distinguished Program” for its innovation in the use of technology in education. Gaylord College has now received the Apple distinction in three consecutive competitions and is still the only major mass communication program in the nation to achieve that feat.
Foote led Gaylord College on an ambitious program to provide students with the best facilities and technologies in the nation. Within three months of becoming dean and less than a year after the dedication of Phase I of Gaylord Hall in 2004, Foote initiated an effort to build Phase II. Within six months, President Boren raised $19 million for the new project. When Phase II opened in 2009, Gaylord Hall with its innovative “live, work, play” computer labs and its state-of-the-art broadcast technology was unsurpassed in higher education. The university complemented its investment in 2014 with a complete high-definition upgrade of broadcasting facilities.
As an OU graduate, Foote is passionate about creating stronger ties with alumni. He worked closely with key alumni to reconstitute, expand and diversify the college’s advisory board, now the Gaylord Board of Visitors, which is widely recognized as a campus leader for alumni engagement. Foote expanded alumni publications, both digital and print, and began a series of successful alumni gatherings around the nation.
In a supporting letter, Catherine Bishop, OU Vice President for Public Affairs, said, “While the Otis Sullivant Award was named for a respected Oklahoma journalist, it is not designated specifically for a journalist, however, I’m struck by the uncanny resemblance between Otis Sullivant and another noted journalist, Joe Foote, and the goal of each to better our world through increased intellectual discussion and civil dialogue.”
Foote received his bachelor’s degree in broadcasting in 1971 from OU. He went on to earn a master’s degree from OU and a Ph.D. from the University of Texas. He also was a post-graduate Rotary Fellow at Bristol University in England.