Elizabeth "Libby" Young
Windward Community College
Journalism Professor

By Bonnie Beatson

By Bonnie Beatson

For 35 years, Elizabeth “Libby” Young has made a difference in the lives of her students.

Libby is the “freshly” retired professor of journalism and English at Windward Community College—the youngest and most beautiful campus of the University of Hawai‘i system—where she has taught since 1980 and built the journalism program’s reputation for excellence.

The campus newspaper, Ka ‘Ohana, has won numerous first place national awards from the American Scholastic Press Association, as well as local awards from the Hawaii Publishers Association. Her level of professional competency, as shown by her students and the Ka ‘Ohana newspaper, are concrete examples of her abilities. Libby gets excited when students get “all fired up” about writing stories for the paper. They take what is happening on campus and in the community seriously…and begin thinking like professional journalists.

Several of Libby’s students have won the Hawaii Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists summer internships over the years — in competition with journalism majors from four-year colleges and universities—and many have resulted in careers launched in the field.

As the first public information officer for the UH community college system from 1970 to 1976. Based on her master’s thesis at UH Manoa, which studied how professional journalists formed their ledes, she was named one of several promising researchers in the nation by the National Council of Teachers of English.

Libby has garnered numerous honors and prestigious awards for journalism and teaching throughout her career.

Turning struggling college students into working journalists has earned Libby the reputation as a talented and effective teacher. At Windward Community College, Libby  received the 1990 Excellence in Teaching Award, given annually by the University of Hawaii Board of Regents.

Libby Young’s teaching was not confined to the classroom. She encouraged her students to engage in community issues. With the help of students, faculty, and community leaders, as well as the support of Windward legislators, she mounted a successful lobbying campaign at the State Capitol that resulted in securing millions of dollars for Windward Community College’s master plan, including a state-of-the art learning center and library.

She was selected the 1995 Carnegie Foundation Professor of the Year for Hawaii and one of “Ten Who Made a Difference” statewide in 1991 by the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.

More recently, Libby was recognized for her contributions as a transformational leader in University of Hawai‘i Community College’s “50 Finest”. In April, the state House of Representatives honored Libby noting her many achievements at WCC, “maintaining excellence and establishing a learning environment that creates an exuberance for learning.”

Can we talk transformation?

For me, transformation is key at any stage in life. After stepping away from a career in graphic design to raise my two young sons, I needed new goals to enter back into the workforce…and new skills. I began studying journalism with Libby Young in 2000. She taught me timeless journalism skills: how to write a timely lede—uncluttered and lean, clear and specific—and how to target my reading audience, research a topic, write objectively with a logical order of thought, conduct interviews (and overcome my shyness), write with good grammar, use AP style, make persuasive appeals (where appropriate), be balanced and fair, and tell a good story. And never forget accuracy, accuracy, accuracy!

I discovered all that I learned from Libby Young built upon the knowledge that I previously had as a designer. Doors opened up for me. I went on to earn a master’s degree in communications and the college liked me so much they hired me—transformational!

Today I stand proudly alongside Libby Young and Windward Community College as the marketing and public relations director. It’s a job that I love…and a career that for 10 years has brought me joy as a writing professional. I appreciate all that Libby has devoted to my success—as my teacher, mentor, friend and news professional—and all that she has inspired me to accomplish.

Over the years, many wonderful students have been part of the Ka ‘Ohana staff, and many have gone on to become working journalists, freelance writers, photographers, and advertising and public relations professionals in their own right.

·        Brooks Baehr – assignment editor, KITV

·        Kyle Funasaki – marketing director, KHON-TV

·        Janine Tully – aide to Rep. Ken Ito and former Sun Press reporter

·        Tiny Tadani & Jenn Boneza –OC16,

·        Bill Mossman & Terri Hefner – managing editor, MidWeek

These former students who are working in the field agree that Libby is a transformational educator.

Leila Fujimori, Honolulu Star Advertiser staff reporter, says Libby Young ‘lit the fire in her belly for reporting that has never been extinguished.’ “Libby provides her students the right guidance to understand the importance of journalism. She also pushed us to strive for excellence in reporting and writing. In the classroom she made it interesting and real. She brought in speakers from the professional journalism community (probably some of you in this room!), took us to visit newsrooms and stressed the importance of obtaining internships as a path to obtain a job after school.”

Former student Alice Keesing says, “The newspaper has always been the students’ voice and not hers. She is the master of the art of gentle suggestion, making the newsroom a place of real learning and empowerment.”

And her peers agree:

Professor Ann Auman, Chairman, School of Communications, UH Manoa:

“Libby is a legend among journalism instructors in Hawai‘i. We all want her students in our classes. Libby’s students from Windward Community College quickly rise to the top of the more advanced journalism classes at UH Manoa as they pursue their bachelor’s degree. They are already capable journalists with strong writing and reporting skills they have honed while working at the Ka ‘Ohana newspaper.”

And if you ask Libby Young what makes a good teacher, she might say a good teacher is one who continues to learn. After wining the Regents’ Excellence in Teaching award, she said the most important thing is to not feel you’ve arrived. A teacher has to keep learning, changing and adapting. She says, “It’s called learning—and it never gets old.”

I am proud to introduce Libby Young, honoree for this year’s SPJ Hawaii Chapter Hall of Fame.