By Jeff Browne, Executive Director
Let Quill & Scroll be part of your community of spirit
There is a community of the spirit.
Join it, and feel the delight
— From the poem “There is a Community of Spirit” by Rumi
Unless you’re living in one of the seven states that hasn’t done much of anything to stop large gatherings in public places, you’re likely seeing very few real live people these days.
Here at Quill and Scroll, our three student assistants have retreated to their homes in suburban Chicago and Cedar Rapids. Administrative Assistant Judy Hauge comes into the nearly empty Adler Journalism Building at the University of Iowa once a week to take care of some business that can’t be done from her home. Next door, journalists at The Daily Iowan continue to break news daily about COVID-19 and its impact on the university, the city, the state, the nation and the world.
And I cleared out my office at the UI and have retreated to my basement on the east side of Iowa City, where my dog, Marcel, and my wife keep me company. She’s home because, as an acupuncturist and massage therapist, her practice has dried up completely.
So that’s my immediate in-person community.
But as human beings in a digital world, we also have each other in ways that weren’t imaginable even just 18 1/2 years ago when 9/11 drove many of us indoors for a short time after.
Thursday morning, I jumped on my Peloton bike for a 30-minute “We’re all in this together” ride. I normally wouldn’t consider 11,000 strangers pedaling in far-off places my “family,” but Thursday it felt as if we were, even if we couldn’t see each other’s faces. (I’m a bit ticked that 9,633 of them pedaled faster than I did, but c’est la velodrome, eh?)
When I came down off the bike, cleaned up and trudged downstairs to start my work day, I logged on to Quill and Scroll to start this blog post.
Quickly I was reminded that I was part of this virtual community — more than 10,000 active members and hundreds of thousands of alumni and advisers who have been inducted into this society over the past 94 years, virtual siblings all dedicated to telling the truth, the first and founding principle of Quill and Scroll.
But in these Plague Days, I’m also reminded that one of our eight guiding principles is “friendship.” You’ve probably heard the bromide that says journalists should “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” Well, these days, we’re all likely afflicted — not all with the coronavirus, but with the loneliness and fear that comes with being isolated from our friends and having our comfortable routines and traditions ripped from us. Know that you have this virtual community to lean on, to draw comfort and inspiration from.
These past few weeks, we’ve been collecting biographies and short videos of Quill and Scroll scholarship winners from the past 60 years. The depth and breadth of talent and experience is staggering — Peabody and Pulitzer Award winners, sports reporters, children’s book authors, travel journalists, journalism professors, doctors, attorneys, parents, grandparents.
You’ll see one video pasted below from Dan Fellner, a world-renowned travel journalist who’s also on the journalism faculty at the Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University. He still cherishes that scholarship, the membership pin and the graduation cord from way back in 1977. He’s Quill and Scroll family.
Roger Thurow, 1975 Q&S scholarship winner
And so is Jia Tolentino, a staff writer for The New Yorker and author of a best-selling collection of essays. She spoke with Quill and Scroll earlier this semester, and the interview is posted below this.
And so is Chris Barton, a successful children’s book author from Texas. And Roger Thurow, a former Wall Street Journal reporter who now is a senior fellow with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. And sports reporter Thomas George. And actress Cassandra Jungblut Schomer. And … well, you get the idea.
Over the next months, as you seek virtual communities while we’re all sheltering in place, understand that you have one here at Quill and Scroll. We’ll be offering options for virtual gatherings over the next several weeks, including virtual induction ceremonies for new members.
Please reach out to me via my email address if you’re interested in being a part of that. And look for more videos of Quill and Scroll alumni — your community now and forever.