ATU Student Newspaper Marks 100th Anniversary

Tommy Mumert and Scott Moore 4-10-2023
Tommy Mumert (left), advisor for the Arka Tech student newspaper at Arkansas Tech University, was presented with a plaque by Scott Moore (right), the first Arka Tech editor to serve under Mumert's leadership, during a reception celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Arka Tech on Monday, April 10.

Many of those who have put in the weekly labor of love required to produce the Arka Tech, the student newspaper at Arkansas Tech University, paused on Monday, April 10, to celebrate the publication’s 100th anniversary and the faculty mentors who have nurtured the growth and development of the newspaper’s staff members.

The reception took place in Chambers Cafeteria West Dining Room on the ATU campus in Russellville.

According to Dr. Thomas A. DeBlack’s “A Century Forward: The Centennial History of Arkansas Tech University,” the Arkansas Tech school newspaper was established in 1923 under the leadership of Dean G.R. Turrentine, who served in administration and on the faculty at the institution from 1921-56.

Originally known as the Tuba Agricolae, the name was changed to the Arka Tech in 1934. The publication’s modern era has been shaped by the mentorship of two faculty advisors: Gerald Edgar, who served on the Arkansas Tech faculty from 1957-86; and Tommy Mumert, who has served on the ATU faculty since 1989.

“In a lot of ways, I feel like any success the Arka Tech has had while I’ve been advisor is because we’re standing on Mr. Edgar’s shoulders,” said Mumert. “I certainly wanted to give a mention about that, and for the late Dr. Van Tyson, long-time department head, who not only was a strong supporter of the newspaper, but also served as Arka Tech editor in 1957 and 1958.”

Despite Mumert’s characteristic best efforts to deflect praise, the event soon turned into a celebration of the individual who has guided the Arka Tech for more than three decades.

Scott Moore, who was Arka Tech editor when Mumert arrived at Arkansas Tech, presented his mentor with a plaque on behalf of the ATU Department of Communication and Media Studies, the event organizers and all in attendance.

“When he came in, Tommy was a perfect fit for me,” said Moore. “I stressed out about change, and this man came in…you all know he is pretty laid back and easy going…and he helped me so much that year. It was incredible. I always wanted to do my best for Tommy because he had a newspaper background and I wanted to impress this guy.”

Mumert also has fond recollections of his introduction to Arkansas Tech and the positive start he was afforded by Moore.

“People who work as advisors in student media will tell you that when you are new to the job, you receive one of two reactions from the returning staff who were selected by the previous advisor,” said Mumert. “The first reaction is you are an idiot and you don’t know anything. The other reaction you may get, if you are lucky, is that the editor will embrace you and welcome you as advisor. I never realized how important Scott’s support was until I got further into my career. I’m so glad you are here so I could publicly tell you how much I appreciate that.”

The event was organized by Megan Toland, ATU assistant professor of journalism, students from her Public Relations Project class and Tara Espinoza, 2022-23 editor in chief of the Arka Tech.

The former staff member who traveled the greatest distance to attend the reception was likely Molly Fleming Mathias, who works in the communications field in Oklahoma City, Okla.

“Tommy Mumert has had such an influence on my life,” said Mathias. “Having grown up going through newspapers and the industry, editors are always in your head. Tommy has been in my head since 2004. He pushes you to be the best you can be. Someone recently asked me to put some extra exclamation points in an e-mail I was about to send out, and I said no, my newspaper advisor said you only get so many exclamation points in your life and you have to use them sparingly.

“Because of Tommy’s support and care we’ve all come to love this industry and the idea of sharing what we know with people,” continued Mathias. “I think that’s what we’re all passionate about…telling people’s stories and sharing that information with as many people as we possibly can, and doing it accurately. I am a better writer, reporter and internal communications specialist because of my time here and Tommy’s influence.”