Award was presented in
September 2007 at SEJ's 17th annual conference
in Stanford, California to Mike Dunne, posthumously.
Freda and Brad Dunne, accepting the Society of Environmental Journalists' 2007 Stolberg Award for Meritorious Volunteer Service, honoring Mike Dunne. Photo by Beth Parke. Click to enlarge.
SEJ is an organization that runs on a lot of volunteer power.
And every year since 1998 we've recognized an outstanding volunteer with the Stolberg Award, named for SEJ founding member David Stolberg.
The year 2007 was different.
We honored a man who was a stalwart SEJ volunteer, and a part-time staffer — paid a pittance, but paid nonetheless.
Normally, that means he wouldn't be eligible for the Stolberg, but in June 2007, the SEJ board voted to make an exception, in order to honor one of the founding members of SEJ.
Mike hoped — and we hoped — he'd be at the conference, but as many were aware, he lost his fight with cancer in July.
Ironically, that means we didn't break any SEJ rules after all.
Mike was an author, a teacher and an award-winning reporter for both print and television.
His great allegiance was to The (Baton Rouge) Advocate, where he covered Lousiana's oil and gas business and the state's vanishing forests, fish and wildlife and wetlands — which were also the subject of his book.
For SEJ, his first volunteer job was as a state correspondent for the Beat section of the SEJournal.
And he went on to become deputy editor of the Journal, where he helped editor Mike Mansur innovate new features and brainstorm the Journal redesign.
Along with Mark Schleifstein and Bob Thomas, Mike was instrumental in bringing the 2003 conference to New Orleans, and organizing the post-conference bayou trip.
Mike's volunteerism didn't stop at SEJ — he was also a very active volunteer in AA and the Boy Scouts.
David Stolberg always said he believed in the value of networking with your peers — and Mike maintained vigorous e-mail conversations with probably half the people who attended the joint Stolberg-SEJ Contest awards presentation on the evening of September 5th.
In an e-mail this spring, Mike shared with Stolberg-Award presenter Christy George a piece of advice he got from a friend and took to heart: "Plan like you'll be around for a long time, and live like you'll die tomorrow."
It's good advice.
Mike had a plan to make sure SEJ's membership wouldn't drop if he didn't make it to the Stanford conference himself.
He persuaded his wife Freda Yarbrough Dunne, who is also a journalist at The Advocate, to join SEJ.
She attended the conference, with Brad Dunne, one of their two sons, to accept the Stolberg Award, an engraved plaque, on Mike's behalf.
Created in 1998, the
award is given annually to a member or
members whose service to the Society and
to other members epitomizes the volunteer
spirit of its namesake, David Stolberg,
one of SEJ's founders. Much of SEJ's best
work is accomplished by member-volunteers:
from tour and panel organizers for the
annual conference, contributors to
SEJournal, to freedom-of-information
watchdogs, mentors, leaders in diversity
outreach and more. Volunteers
define the heart and soul of SEJ, and
expand the group's reach in ways that cannot
be easily measured.
The winner is
selected by a panel of three judges drawn
from SEJ's board of directors and staff,
and appointed by SEJ's president.