The 2016 Sacramento Press Club Journalism Scholarships
Thank you for considering a donation to the Sacramento Press Club’s journalism scholarship program. The Sacramento Press Club, a nonprofit, public benefit 501(c)(3) corporation, has been awarding scholarships to journalism students in California since 1974. Your tax deductible donation will help us continue to support the next generation of California journalists. A receipt for your donation will be mailed to your credit card billing address. The Sacramento Press Club is proud to honor Earl “Squire” Behrens, Jean Stephens, Jerry Gillam, Dan Walters and Nereida Skelton with journalism scholarships permanently named in their honor. In 2015, we are also pleased to honor Doug Willis and Bob Schmidt.
Earl “Squire” Behrens, a former political editor of the San Francisco Chronicle who covered the state Capitol for a half-century. He wrote the widely read column Political Notes. Behrens was described by his fellow SF Chronicle columnist Herb Caen this way: “The Squire was a delightful fellow and a stern judge of character.”
President Nixon honored Behrens in 1970 when he requested that the privilege of closing his July 30th news conference in Los Angeles with “Thank you, Mr. President,” – which is traditionally accorded to the senior wire service reporter – be given to Behrens. Behrens was presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Nixon on April 22, 1970. In 1973 the National Association of Governor also honored Behrens with a resolution that said in part, “”WHEREAS, this man has devoted more than 40 years of his life covering meetings of the National Governors’ Conference with a flair that has made him a landmark of achievement in an industry filled with professionals.”
Jean Stephens, the long-time Secretary-Treasurer of the Sacramento Press Club. Dr. Stephens taught journalism at Sacramento City College for more than 30 years before retiring in 1986 and helped thousands of journalism students become professional journalists over her lengthy career. Dr. Stephens wrote hundreds and hundreds of letters of recommendations for scholarships, internships and jobs for her students.
Yvonne Jean Stephens was born June 26, 1926. She attended Pacific Elementary School, California Junior High and C.K. McClatchy High School in Sacramento. She graduated from Sacramento Junior College in 1946 and went on to earn a B.A. in English at the University of California, Berkeley. She earned her master’s degree before returning home to teach English and journalism in the Elk Grove School District and then at her alma matter, now named Sacramento City College. While on sabbatical from City College, Dr. Stephens earned her Ph.D from the University of Iowa in 1972 and published her thesis, “Seeing the Elephant,” a biography of the flamboyant Western journalist Lucias Beebe, who died in 1966.
Dr. Stephens was named the Outstanding Journalism Teacher in the Statewide Professional Journalism Association of Junior Colleges in 1977.
Current Sacramento Press Club Executive Director Kathy Beasley says, after Dr. Stephens suffered a stroke in 1998, her role for the SPC had to be divided between two people because she had been responsible for so much club work and no single person could really replace her. Jean Stephens died at age 85 of complications from diabetes.
Nereida Skelton, a beloved journalism teacher for more than three decades. She was the advisor to the McClatchy High School student newspaper, where she served as a mentor to many outstanding students.
Her straightforward approach to news and politics also had an influence across the nation, as her husband George called her his “secret editor” for his Los Angeles Times political column.
Community college students who are transferring to a four year college will be given special consideration for this scholarship.
Nereida Skelton was a teacher at McClatchy and Kennedy high schools in Sacramento for 33 years. Her core job was teaching English, but she also taught public speaking and coached debate, spending many weekends driving her “teams” to tournaments around the state.
“She was such a champion of her students,” remembers Matea Gold, a fomer editor-in-chief of the McClatchy Prospector who went on to become a political writer for the Los Angeles Times. (And a Sacramento Press Club scholarship recipient.)
Nereida was born in Milwaukee, Wis., May 16, 1944. She graduated from the University of Arizona in 1966 and immediately moved to Sacramento, teaching at Kennedy during the 1960s and 1970s, and at McClatchy from 1985 until her retirement in 2004.
The late Doug Willis followed Ronald Reagan from the governor’s office to the presidential campaign trail and covered Jerry Brown’s first stint as governor during a three-decade career for The Associated Press. Other highlights of his career included reporting on the attempted assassination of President Gerald Ford by Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, covering Cesar Chavez’ farmworker strikes, and securing a jailhouse interview with mass murderer Juan Corona. Colleagues recalled him as a congenial but fierce competitor who never forgot a fact or let sources off the hook. Willis died in December 2015 at age 77.
Jerry Gillam, a 35-year veteran of the Capitol press corps. He is remembered for his knowledgeable political reporting in the Los Angeles Times’ Sacramento bureau, his friendly mentoring of new Capitol reporters and his larger-than-life sense of humor.
Gillam started covering government for the Copley News Service in 1960. A year later, he was hired by the LA Times in its growing Sacramento bureau. Gillam stayed with the paper until his retirement in 1995.
Gillam was born Feb. 24, 1932, in Glendale, CA. He served in the Air Force during the Korean War. After his discharge, he became a political reporter for the Glendale News Press, a newspaper where he had been a sports reporter before the war.
Bob Schmidt is a retired California politics reporter and was the Sacramento Press Club president from 1980 to 1988. Schmidt covered the Capitol and state government from 1961 to 1988, first for the Long Beach Press-Telegram and then for the San Jose Mercury News. He reported on the presidential campaigns of both Ronald Reagan and Jerry Brown and covered every Democratic and Republican national political convention from 1972 to 1988. In retirement, he freelanced for the Business Journal from 1993 to 2012, and still writes newsletter articles today for the Renaissance Society, the lifelong learning community at Sacramento State.
Dan Walters, political columnist for the Sacramento Bee. Walters has written more than 75-hundred columns during his half a century of work as a journalist. His column is currently published in more than 50 newspapers. He has generously supported the Sacramento Press Club scholarship program and helped many students realize their dreams of becoming reporters.Walters joined The Sacramento Union’s Capitol bureau in 1975, just as Jerry Brown began his governorship, and later became the Union’s Capitol bureau chief. In 1981, he began writing the state’s only daily newspaper column devoted to California political, economic, and social events. In 1984, he and the column moved to The Sacramento Bee.
Walters has written about California and its politics for a number of other publications, including The Wall Street Journal and the Christian Science Monitor. In 1986, his book, The New California: Facing the 21st Century, was published in its first edition. The book has since undergone revisions and has become a widely used college textbook about socioeconomic and political trends in the state. He is also the founding editor of the California Political Almanac; the co-author of a book on lobbying entitled The Third House: Lobbyists, Money and Power in Sacramento, and contributed chapters to two other books, Remaking California and The New Political Geography of California.