Professor remembered for passion, curiosity

December 5, 2013 6:18 AMComments Off

Column by Rick’s Reporters: Taylor Soule and Lauren Horsch

HorschandSoulePhotoHe was more than a professor.

He was Rick.

Richard Tapscott was born March 17, 1948, in Trenton, Mo. After graduating from the University of Missouri School of Journalism, he went on to a successful career in the newspaper industry. Tapscott was well-known for his work at The Washington Post and The Des Moines Register.

During his tenure at The Kansas City Times and its sister publication The Kansas City Star, the paper won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage.

After he retired from the newspaper industry in 2007, he brought his talents and passions to Drake University’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication. He taught courses in reporting and writing principles in the news-Internet sequence.

Students of all academic backgrounds had the opportunity to experience his newsroom-like class atmosphere in the intro reporting class. Throughout the entire semester he doesn’t use your first name, and that was what added to his class.

But it’s in that setting that you realize he’s more than a gruff, thick-skinned newsman. It’s underneath that exterior you find an unparalleled curiosity that encouraged students to mirror it in their lives.

Tapscott never let his students scratch the surface of a story. He encouraged them to test their own abilities.

He always knew what his students needed to hear, even if it meant complimenting them on a story and then handing them a laundry list of improvements. He never wanted his students to be second-rate, and those lists proved it.

Many students can remember the day they graduated from being a last name to a first name, and hearing those immortal words as they handed in their course evaluations: “You can call me Rick.”

He was a force in Meredith Hall, even to students who never had him in class. Tapscott always walked with a purpose, even if it was just to get his mail.

In the chaotic world of journalism and college, Tapscott provided the right advice in his trademark succinct manner. He’d utter a, “You’ll be OK,” or, “It’ll all work out. It always does,” even when you doubted that statement.

That was the thing about Tapscott. He was always right.

He also always knew what his students were capable of even if they didn’t believe in themselves. He had a knack for finding students’ passions and pushing them in the right direction.

When they left Tapscott’s class, they were no longer a student.

They were one of Rick’s reporters, even if they weren’t a journalism student.

His class taught you lessons that were not only applicable in the newsroom but in life. It was because of his class that you became inquisitive and knew where to focus that energy.

When students entered Meredith Hall on Monday morning, a presence was missing. Knowing Tapscott would not enter through the double doors and walk with determination to Meredith 125 with a reporter’s notepad in his pocket proved to be a solemn reality. Richard Tapscott will be greatly missed by his family, friends, colleagues and students.

His decades of experience in the field proved to be an inspiration for a new generation of reporters.

He may have been more than a professor, but at least he was our professor.

Soule is editor-in-chief of The Times-Delphic and can be reached at tdeditorinchief@gmail.com. Horsch  is a former editor-in-chief and can be reached at lauren.horsch@drake.edu.

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