Journalism educator Bill Kunerth named 2014 Schwartz Award winner

William "Bill" F. Kunerth, professor emeritus of the Greenlee School at Iowa State University, was named the 2014 winner of the James W. Schwartz Award for Distinguished Service to Journalism and Communication.

Kunerth died December 2013 after a brief illness. The award was presented to his spouse, Wilma, in a special April 16 memorial arranged for the former professor. She was anticipating receiving a “Champion of the First Amendment” Award in honor of her husband.

After making that presentation, Michael Bugeja, director of the Greenlee School, told Wilma Kunerth that he had another honor to announce.

She and the more than 100 alumni and friends of Kunerth were surprised when Bugeja announced that the Greenlee faculty also had chosen her husband for the Schwartz Award.

“We knew that the best time and place to honor Bill would be at this remembrance,” Bugeja said. “Knowing Bill, he would value the First Amendment Award as much as the Schwartz Award. The First Amendment Award honors Bill’s values. The Schwartz Award honors his contributions to journalism education, and our collective gratitude.”

Kunerth served in the U.S. Army during World War II in an active combat unit in France and Germany. At age 19 he and his unit were sent to the Siegfried Line on the German border. He was shot in the leg and received the Purple Heart. 

A Sioux Falls, S.D., native, Kunerth received his MSJ in 1952 from Northwestern University. He worked as a reporter in South Dakota, Wyoming, Illinois and Iowa before taking a job  at Iowa State in 1957 as a journalism instructor. He was promoted to assistant professor in 1959, associate professor in 1965, and professor in 1975. In 1987, he won the Distinguished Service Award of the Iowa Newspaper Association for contributions to the newspaper industry.

James Schwartz was chair of Iowa State University's journalism department from 1965 to 1977. The Schwartz Award has been presented since 1978 to leaders in journalism and related fields. They include four Pulitzer Prize winners, distinguished broadcast journalists, authors, advertising and public relations executives, newspaper and magazine publishers, and leading writers in a variety of specialty areas.

Previous winners of the award include Hugh Sidey, former TIME magazine White House correspondent; Roy Reiman, founder of Reiman Publications; Terry Anderson, former Associated Press Middle East bureau chief; Kevin and Mollie Cooney, KCCI-TV anchors and reporters; Herb Plambeck, America's first full-time farm broadcaster; Chris Adams, investigative reporter for Knight Ridder's Washington bureau; and Bill Monroe, executive director of the Iowa Newspaper Association.