Adviser was veteran of 22 years at Arkansas State
By Debra Chandler Landis
The tributes to the late Bonnie Thrasher continued to flow. Colleagues posted on the College Media Association listserv. Thrasher’s students at Arkansas State University, where she taught and advised The Herald for 22 years, produced a special edition in her honor. A journalism graduate of Arkansas State praised Thrasher’s tough-minded journalistic ways but also fondly called her a fellow “cat lady,” referring to the numerous felines Thrasher rescued over the years.
Thrasher, vice president of the CMA who also held positions of CMA secretary and treasurer, was active in several professional journalism organizations. She died in her sleep at home on March 31, with the Arkansas State University College of Media and Communication posting on its Facebook page: “We are saddened to announce the passing of our beloved faculty member, colleague, mentor and friend Ms. Bonnie Thrasher. Kind words and positive thoughts to her family, friends and students in this difficult time.”
Between news of Thrasher’s death and an ensuing memorial service , CMA members, writing on the CMA listserv, painted a portrait with their words of a smart, dedicated, and witty colleague known as much for her dedication to journalism as for being a role model with straightforward talk accented by a lovely Southern accent.
CMA President Rachele Kanigel recalled Thrasher as “feisty, yet kind, forthright and fun.” Thrasher had a “no-nonsense honesty,” Kanigel said, and was devoted “to students and all things college media.
Kelley Callaway, CMA vice president Member Services, said Thrasher was a role model to students and colleagues.
“Somehow she managed to say exactly what she thought, but always in a kind, respectful way. She could flat out disagree with everything you said, but she never made you feel like it was personal. Or that she didn’t respect you. I always admired how she managed to pull that off,” Callaway said.
Steven Listopad, director of student media at Valley City State University, recalled Thrasher as “always supportive of new members’ needs to acclimate to CMA.”
“Long after I first joined CMA, I would try to sit in on as many new member sessions as I could just to hear Bonnie’s words of wisdom and encouragement. I wish I had the opportunity to know her better,” Listopad said.
Steven Chappell, director of student publications at Northwest Missouri State University, and Thrasher joined CMA in1993. A native Southerner like Thrasher, Chappell said he’ll miss many things about Thrasher, including “her sweet Southern drawl.”
“For me, being a displaced Southerner, just hearing Bonnie’s voice at the fall and spring conventions — regardless of whether it was in New Orleans, Nashville, St. Louis, Washington D.C. or of course, New York — meant I would, every time I talked to her, hear a taste of home in her sweet Southern drawl,” Chappell recalled. “There are many other things about Bonnie I will miss. But most of all, it will be the sounds of home in my ear from her perfect Southern accent. “
Paul Isom, journalism instructor at North Carolina State University, paid tribute to Thrasher and the importance of letting others know you care about them.
Writing as if he were talking to Thrasher, Isom said, in part, “You were always available for a quick call or long message about work, family, Southeast Journalism Conference, or CMA, but now l suddenly realize I never actually told you how much that meant to me. I hope you knew. You are a dear, dear friend.”
Current and former students joined professionals in saluting Thrasher.
Writing in a special edition of The Herald, (to visit, click here), editor-in-chief Emily Alexander, said, in part, “It was impossible to fully understand and appreciate the extent of Ms. Thrasher’s work and dedication to this publication and staff until she was gone.
“She was the soul of our newspaper and the heart of our staff. She grew our confidence, but would not hesitate to put us in our place, which was something that made every single one of us better journalists and better people. Thrasher was the glue that held us together, always there and always pushing us to improve. She spent countless hours working to make sure we had every opportunity available to us.”
Arkansas State graduate Caitlin Dee, blogging in “Tribute to a mentor,” echoed similar sentiments, adding that Thrasher was also a “cat lady.”
Dee wrote, in part, at March 31, 2015 : “After hardly a semester into the (Arkansas State University) journalism program, I learned Thrasher, like me, loved cats. So much, in fact, that she had 26 of them, fostering them and spaying and neutering the cute little critters. My best friend and I begged her relentlessly to allow us to come to her cat-cave and cover ourselves in fur and kitty kisses. The semester we graduated, she finally granted our wish, gave us her address, and allowed us into her home.
“I was in awe of the part of the house she had sectioned off strictly for her felines. She was a tough piece when it came to school but I saw her passion in caring for these animals with no other home.”
Thrasher volunteered for homeless animals at the Greene County Animal Farm in
Paragould, Arkansas. In lieu of flowers, her family suggested donations to that facility, located at: 1261 Greene 739 Road, Paragould, Arkansas, 72450.
The SEJ Conference noted on its website that donations can also be made at
Support.AState.edu. Identify Bonnie Thrasher Memorial Scholarship in the Other category.
Brad Rawlins, dean of the College of Media and Communications at Arkansas State, said in a news release that Thrasher’s students work in professional news organizations in Arkansas and throughout the country. Many, he said, e-mailed the university, “expressing love and gratitude for her mentorship and support.”
Noting that Thrasher “will always be remembered for her fun, brash and lively personality, and for how much she cared for students,” Rawlins added, “She was a friend to all who knew her and she will be dearly missed.”