SPLC mourns passing of former board member

David L. Adams was long-time advocate for student press freedom

The Student Press Law Center—and the entire journalism education community—has lost a great friend. David L. Adams, who died on June 2, was a member of SPLC’s board of directors for almost 20 years, most recently serving as board chair from 2003 through 2006. In his time on the board he played an essential role in leading SPLC’s growth and development, including its important strategic planning and concluding with the successful completion last year of the SPLC’s Tomorrow’s Voices endowment campaign.

Adams was publisher of and adviser to the Indiana Daily Student newspaper and the Arbutus yearbook and a professor in the school of journalism at Indiana University. He was also a former president of the national College Media Advisers organization and a former executive director of the Journalism Education Association, a national organization of scholastic journalism teachers and advisers.

“Dave was a bright light, always enthusiastically supporting the work of our organization and energetically defending the rights of students everywhere to publish freely,” said Rosalind Stark, chair of the SPLC board of directors. “Advisers to student media who might be having difficulties could be assured that Dave would be there, supporting their cause and serving as an articulate and passionate voice for their rights. We are deeply saddened that Dave Adams will not be with us as we celebrate the success of our work, but we know that as a generous contributor and tireless spokesperson, he was a principal reason for the phenomenal growth of the SPLC.”

Adams was one of the strongest and most visible national advocates for student press freedom. In addition to serving as adviser to award-winning student publications, he was a much-requested speaker at conferences and conventions around the world on topics relating to student press freedom and the First Amendment.

“He was an enthusiastic supporter of the SPLC’s work and a great spokesperson for our cause,” said Mark Goodman, SPLC executive director. “Anyone who came in contact with him quickly learned how much he cared about students and how committed he was to ensuring that their voices were heard, whether he agreed with what they had to say or not. The student press and the SPLC have lost a great ally; many SPLC board and staff members are missing a dear friend.”

Comments about David Adams from former Student Press Law Center staff and board members:

In the brief time I’ve been a part of SPLC, I’d come to see Dave as a real hero to student journalists. So tireless, so enthusiastic, so thrilled by the opportunities to do the right things for students – and for all of us. He treasured his good work — and we’ve lost a treasure. My thoughts are with Dave’s partner, family and students.

Mark W.C. Stodder, SPLC board member
Executive Vice President/Newspapers
Dolan Media Company
Minneapolis, MN

“Dave’s death is a tremendous loss to scholastic journalism and a deeply felt personal loss. My friendship with Dave goes back to the late 1970s when he was at Kansas State University and I taught at the U. of Kansas. No future gathering of SPLC or AEJMC will ever be the same again without an opportunity to greet Dave’s smiling face and receive his big bear hug.”

Dorothy Bowles, former SPLC board member
Professor, School of Journalism & Electronic Media
University of Tennessee
Knoxville, TN

“It’s hard for me to envision the scholastic press landscape without Dave Adams, its legal-rights energizer. For more than 20 years, I heard care, confidence and encouragement in his almost-strident voice during passionate discussions of students’ free-expression rights. It made no difference whether it was at an SPLC Board meeting, before teachers at a conference, with a college administrator who abused the First Amendment, or while sharing press-rights stories over drinks. Dave always spoke with earnest honesty and frankness when he discussed education and the First Amendment. To Dave, the First Amendment was not an abstract philosophy or principle; it was an invaluable teaching tool that helped young citizens become civic-minded adults. And because he cared in such a contagious way, he touched and inspired many of this country’s journalism teachers and students. I’m so much the better for having known him. I’ll miss him.

Tom Eveslage, former SPLC board member
Professor of Journalism
Temple University
Philadelphia, PA

“Dave was a wonderful man and a devoted friend. I cannot begin to say just how much his friendship and support meant to me over the years. Just one example of so many. When our student newspaper, the Collegian, needed a consultant to help revive it, Dave was the first person I thought of. He came to South Dakota State University in August of 2005 and worked very carefully with our students in drafting a plan for improvement. By following that plan, our students turned the paper around, and this year received second in the Best Student Newspaper – Weekly from Region 6 of SPJ. And it was Dave’s plan and his inspiring the students that set it in motion. Dave will be missed.”

Mary Arnold, former SPLC board member
Head of the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication
South Dakota State University
Brookings, SD

“Like so many others nationwide, I’m stunned to hear of Dave Adams’ untimely passing and moved to tears that this energetic, fun-loving, intelligent and passionate supporter of student press will no longer be around to talk with, meet with or to plan our next ‘attack’ on the state legislature for a new Indiana Student Press bill. But missing Dave goes way beyond working with him on countless committees, with the Student Press Law Center, with the Indiana High School Press Association or through Indiana University. I remember his stories of the Daily Student newspaper managing the coverage of the Bobby Knight firing and ensuing paparazzi onslaught as they arranged a national press conference. I recall his compassionate stories of traveling to Africa and discovering first-hand the AIDS epidemic there; of the suffering of children. I’ll miss his laughter, his insight, his committment to scholastic journalism and his friendship. He is surely one of the finest men I’ve ever met.”

Terry Nelson, former SPLC board member
Muncie Central High School
Muncie, IN

“In the three years I worked for the SPLC I had the honor, and the pleasure, of working with Dave. His enthusiasm for the student press and his deep support of the SPLC will be missed. His words, and his actions, on behalf of student press freedom will continue to be an inspiration to us all.”

Laura A. Rzepka, former SPLC development director
Administrative Director
American Conference of Academic Deans
Washington, DC

See the Indiana Daily Student.

Contributions to support the work of the Student Press Law Center can be made in memory of David Adams. See our giving page for details.