Sunday, July 29, 2012

Wally and the Columbia Owl, 1959-63

In 1959, hubby Wallis E. Wood was an undergrad at Columbia University's School of General Studies (GS). He wound up being one of the founders of that school's weekly newspaper, the Columbia Owl, which won an award for campus journalism.

When Wally enrolled at GS, there was no newspaper, and a group of students began a mimeographed paper of such low quality that Wally and his classmates, Thomas Simpson and Michael B. Conant, created a parody issue of it. That got the administration's attention, and somehow Simpson received a budget to begin a real GS newspaper. Simpson was editor and Conant managing editor.

In 1960, Wally was features editor and, under the byline "A. Haggard Rider," he wrote a regular Subway Thoughts column (left).

By 1961, Wally was managing editor while Simpson remained editor. As of the end of May, 1961, the paper was so successful that it had expanded to 8 pages.

Simpson's job took him to Chicago, Wally moved up to become the Columbia Owl's editor for 1962. These were exciting times to be on campus, with all kinds of political issues to cover and other news and commentary.

In fact, in 1963, the Columbia Owl won an award for distinguished campus journalism covering international affairs, which Wally accepted at the National College Editors Conference in New York City.

The b/w photo above shows Wally holding the award and receiving a check for the Columbia Owl from Sterling Fisher, Exec Director of the Reader's Digest Foundation, and Ruth Hagy Brod, the conference chair. 2022 update: Another key event from his time as editor was arranging a big event featuring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Read about it here in the Columbia University mag!

Wally became so wrapped up in the newspaper that his academic standing was in peril. He left Columbia and got a reporting job on McGraw-Hill's Electrical Merchandising Week, and Larry S. Stewart became Owl editor.

As a going away present, the newspaper staff gave Wally this stuffed owl (which we still have), with two inscriptions:

To Wally from his staff, 1961-62

Presented to Wallis E. Wood in recognition of his contributions to the Columbia Owl 1963


  1. AnonymousJuly 30, 2012

    Columbia was lucky to have those pioneers go out on a limb like the Owl.

  2. I was lucky enough to have the Public Relations assignment in 1961 when we sponsored a benefit performance for was an exciting time


    picture of Wallis on home page of today's Columbia news