Rod Campbell ran a very successful public relations agency in the Dearborn Michigan area for a number of years. Among the things the transplanted Canadian did was hire away the former occupant of this seat, Len Coates. I was lucky enough to grab that seat and don't plan on letting it go any time soon.
Len was in many ways the founder of the automobile journalism profession in this country, among other things serving as the first president of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada.
Len was also a terrific writer, a man of great journalistic integrity, and a charming companion, as his many wives would testify!
He passed away a little under three years ago, and it's amazing how often his name still comes up in conversation within our ranks to this day.
Rod Campbell and his wife Sandy decided to honour Len's memory by offering awards to the "most promising" students in first, second and third years in the School of Journalism at Ryerson University, Len's alma mater.
Len's brother Bert, also a Ryerson graduate, was to present one of the awards, but got stranded in Arizona with a recalcitrant old motorhome. He asked me to fill in; I was honoured to do so.
Those who only knew Len in his bon vivant years are always surprised to learn that he was something of a student radical. During a confrontation with the administration over the editorial direction of The Ryersonian, the student newspaper - run by the students, but published by the School - he led a mass resignation of the staff and started The Eyeopener, a completely student-run publication.
Both papers exist to this day. But as Ron Granatstein, editor of the Toronto Sun and once an Eyeopener editor, said during a presentation he made this night, he looks back at the masthead of the Eyeopener he ran and sees nothing but people who have gone on to become top-rated journalists all across this globe.
This year's winners appear destined to follow in those footsteps.
The first year Coates Memorial Award winners were Kevin Hamilton and Aleysha Haniff. Rod Campbell presented these himself - his gorgeous wife Sandy was too shy to join him on stage.
Third year, Heather Li and Jesse McLean, presented by Stuart Sherman of the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame, another institute that was very close to Len's heart.
These three awards were among dozens and dozens presented that night. I can't recall an awards night which showed how much the current members of the profession support the newcomers.
The Star of course was well represented, with current editor-in-chief Fred Kuntz presenting various awards, and former publisher John Honderich presenting the Gold Medal to the most outstanding student in the graduating class, Jeffrey Semple.
What impressed me so much about all the award winners was their personality and style. Facing what is an even more uncertain future than usual to students, with the face of journalism changing almost by the day, these young people exuded amazing energy and confidence.
We are indeed in good hands.