Professor Leon Alligood’s impact on me as a ...

Professor Leon Alligood’s impact on me as a journalism student

By: Maddy Williams

Leon Alligood. How can I even begin?

Leon has been the most influential professor and advisor for my journalism degree thus far. I’m so incredibly grateful to have met you, learned from you and been given countless advice from you.

You are by far the kindest and most wholesome person I’ve ever met. If I can live my life like you and exhibit the same joy and wisdom you possess to the age of retirement, I know I will have lived well.

Leon Alligood retired from MTSU’s School of Journalism and Strategic Media after 15 years of service. (Photo: Maddy Williams)

When I walked into your American Media and Social Institutions class during my freshman year, I knew I’d learn how to be the reporter I aspired to be.

I took your class based on the advice of other students and my mom’s friend, Keith Cartwright, who also has the pleasure of being your friend.

My journalism teacher at Blackman High School also told me to take your class for the sole reason of seeing her former journalism staff flourish at MTSU Sidelines and beyond, including Brinley Hineman, who spoke to your American Media class during my semester. She was also in your retirement video, which I enjoyed seeing.

The choice to take your class set the scene for the rest of my journalism degree and future career.

You talked about your journalism career in your class, and I sat in awe of your experiences. I had never met someone who had covered a war firsthand on the sidelines. That bravery and true journalistic passion set a fire in me for journalism even more than I already had.

We learned about the history of journalism, and you guided us through how media has changed in the past decades. Your experience in the career field as it has grown and changed from print to digital made learning the content easy to absorb and incredibly interesting. Introduction classes don’t always feel that way.

I talked to you after class about writing for Sidelines, where you set me up to be interviewed by the amazing former editor-in-chief, Ashley Barrientos. Sidelines was the first student media organization I joined, and I’m so fortunate to be a part of it.

I started as a news and lifestyle reporter. I transitioned to writing on an environmental beat for a semester and then primarily lifestyles for music. I’m now lucky enough to be on their new social media team, which has been incredible.

Because of your love for the environment, you helped me hone in on this skill by showing me how to read environmental records online of temperature and sea level changes. These one-on-one meetings stirred an even greater passion in me for environmental journalism.

You have always pushed me to be the best interviewer, reporter, writer and editor I can be. I would not have the skills I have today without you. My stories would be full of AP style mistakes. Please don’t grade this article for AP style—there’s loads of passive voice.

Leon Alligood retired from MTSU’s School of Journalism and Strategic Media after 15 years of service. (Photo: Maddy Williams)

My first story for Sidelines was interviewing a sports producer who had experienced the September 11 terrorist attack. Your friend Keith helped me set up this incredible interview.

Carlos DeMolina was in Rockefeller Center when the attack happened. This was an incredibly high-profile story, and I was scared. I was a baby reporter at the time, too.

So, I came to your office. I presented my interview questions, and you guided me through them. I had never covered such a sensitive issue before for my previous newspaper. You helped me pick the best questions, and I left your office without those same anxieties I entered with.

My interview went incredible, and it is still my favorite story I’ve ever written. I can’t thank you enough for that.

That was the first of many times in your office, you helped me with recommendation letters for my study abroad trips and encouraged me to find stories to enter in journalism contests and scholarships.

Thank you for seeing my potential as a writer and pushing me even further to excellence. You always shared opportunities with me each time they presented themselves.

You have always wanted the best for me and believed I could achieve anything I set my mind to. Without you, I would not have the confidence I have in my journalistic abilities.

When I returned from my semester study abroad in England, you were one of the first professors I talked to. You asked about my trip and all the incredible journalism skills I learned abroad at Media City, where BBC News and ITV are housed.

You always encouraged me in each adventure I’ve explored when it came to my differing career goals and opportunities at the university. I always knew you were proud, and I sincerely appreciated this.

I study on the second floor of Bragg, and you always made sure to say hello as you passed by. Periodically, you’d sit and chat about stories I was working on, my current career aspirations and my work experiences.

I’m going to miss those brief daily chats every morning. They always encouraged me that I was doing well and achieving my goals.

(Photo: Maddy Williams)

I began to work for the MTSU Division of Marketing and Communications for Andrew Oppmann, one of your colleagues, and this allowed me to also see you at Bonnaroo as well as help start new projects for Sidelines’ social media in the fall.

Being in the media tent at Bonnaroo with the social media team, Sidelines and the photographers, it felt like such an amazing community. You are a big reason for that feeling. I’m so thankful I got to be at your last Bonnaroo.

The School of Journalism and Strategic Media is home to me. The community within this program and the closeness with the professors, faculty and students is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.

Going to your retirement party last week and celebrating you alongside your colleagues, bosses, family and former and current Sidelines staff proves how big of a role you’ve played in this community.

The journalism program would not be the same without you, and your absence will be missed and felt greatly.

With that being said, I’m so happy you’ll be spending your days in nature and traveling with your wife. You deserve rest and time spent appreciating life and this beautiful earth with your family.

Sidelines will miss you greatly. You are why so many students have written stories for our paper and why our staff is as incredible as they are today and as they’ve always been in years past.

The community you built in Sidelines will live on, and I thank you for that.

You’ve left Sidelines in good hands. Matthew Leimkuehler will keep your legacy alive through this newspaper. However, you must visit us. It’s your story assignment from me, and I’ll make sure it goes on the budget.

Thank you, Leon, for absolutely everything. As sad as I am that you’re retiring, I’m so excited to keep up with your next adventures. Never be a stranger. MTSU will always miss you.