Pfeiffer grad pushed boundaries of news

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Rick Thames had no way to predict the current events he would cover as a journalist, but he was ready to face them. Pfeiffer made the difference, he told students at our opening convocation this year.

As a journalist Thames, was dispatched to places like Panama, Great Britain, and Russia, joined paratroopers on survival training, flew with the Blue Angels, met boats of Cuban and Haitian refugees, helped track a serial killer in Wichita, stood over meteorologists as they tracked hurricanes, flew into the Everglades in search of missing planes, and edited some of the first stories ever published about AIDS.

Thames ('75) was most recently Executive Editor and Vice President for News at the Charlotte Observer. He is a member of the Pfeiffer University Board of Trustees.

"Pfeiffer launched me into the world more than 40 years ago," said Thames. At his 1972 Pfeiffer student interview, "I sat before a panel of three faculty members and braced myself for interrogation. The head of the panel was Joe Ferrebee, Pfeiffer’s legendary baseball coach. Coach Ferrebee welcomed me to Misenheimer and said. 'Rick, tell us about your interests. Tell us what you would like to do with your life.'"

Thames said Pfeiffer faculty, "Wanted to know what mattered to me. What I dreamed about."

Pfeiffer shaped his dreams and confidence. He recalled a history professor, Dr. Robert (Fred) West, who, "...wanted his students to care about history as much as he did. One night Dr. West invited the class to dinner at his home. He was known to do this for all his classes. But looking back on it, I think he picked this night for a reason. After dinner, he turned on the TV. There before us was Richard Nixon addressing the nation about Watergate. Dr. West did not want us to miss it."

West used the event as a real-time history lesson. He was the catalyst for critical thinking that students would use for a lifetime.

Thames used those lessons well as a journalist and industry leader. The Charlotte Observer’s journalists have won or been finalists for virtually every national journalism award, including the Pulitzer Prize. Twice under his leadership they have won the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for Public Service.

About his career and life, Thames told students, "Pfeiffer prepared me for this. And it can prepare you for whatever it is that you want to do. So work hard. Listen closely. Take advantage of this wise faculty."