By Tess Peterson and Robert Kiesnowski
From Friday, Oct. 8 to Sunday, Oct. 10, Western hosted a series of Homecoming activities: the annual parade, the Lighting of the W ceremony, the much-anticipated Mountaineer football game, a corresponding pregame tailgate, and Omicron Delta Kappa’s Fall Day of Service. Among the exciting campus events was the official 100th anniversary party for the Top O’ the World student newspaper, held in the Savage Library’s “Harry Potter” room at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 9.
Among the more than 25 event attendees were prior staff writers, copy editors, photographers, and editors-in-chief, some of whom could trace their personal history with the paper back to the 1960s and 1970s. Leah Nielson-Johnson (class of ‘94) began as a staff writer and worked her way into features editing and eventually the position of editor-in-chief.
Nielsen-Johnson went on to report for the Gunnison Times and the Ute Pass Courier, before transitioning to a career in speech pathology. “I always loved writing, now I teach children to write and it has really come full circle for me,” Nielson-Johnson said. “Take advantage of all the opportunities you can, and be open to lots of possibilities. You never know what could come full circle for you too.”
Various other former members of the newspaper were gracious enough to be interviewed by current reporters for this story. That list includes former copy editor and staff writer Andrea Stewart (class of ‘90), who also had advice for current Western students, given that her son is among them. Stewart encourages students to get involved in a variety of activities, doing so during her time here rewarded Stewart with a full resume upon graduating. “I was proud to send my son here,” Stewart said.
Another attendee, Charles Marshall (classes of ‘61 and ‘67), considered his team at Top O’ the World “literature people”; between the heavy influence from English majors and the format limitations imposed by the printing techniques of the time, Marshall recalled that the school newspaper was quite unique during his tenure as editor. Marshall believes that the heavy influence of the humanities on the newspaper was beneficial and expressed his wishes for Western to once again prioritize the humanities and liberal arts.
At around 11 a.m., there were a series of announcements, during which Professor Jack Lucido of the Communication Arts department announced plans to revive the journalism minor here at Western. Marshall also spoke to the assembled attendees and recited numerous anecdotes that occurred during his tenure as editor-in-chief. He brought along old copies of the newspaper from his time at Western, and along with Western yearbooks from the 1970s, these historic copies provided both entertainment and a blast-from-the-past for the assembled alumni.
Top O’ the World’s current advisor, English and Communication Arts professor Toni Todd, also expressed her happiness that the paper now has an online presence and is back in publication after the COVID-19 pandemic halted the paper’s printing and ceased operations for a year.
After the remarks, five former editors of the paper took a photo together alongside the current editor Brian Wagenaar, spanning more than 50 years of paper history. Andrea Stewart, a newspaper alumna, suggested that many Top O’ the World alumni would love to pay to receive physical copies of print editions, which Top O’ the World plans to restart within the academic year.
Editor’s note: Thank you all for supporting Top O’ the World, and here’s to another 100 years!