First Seigenthaler Scholar named at Vanderbilt

May 30, 2002

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A Little Rock, Ark., student is the first recipient of the John Seigenthaler Scholarship at Vanderbilt University. The scholarship was established last summer through a gift from the Freedom Forum in honor of the founder of the organization’s First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt.

Leah Monique Watson, a recent graduate of Hall High School, will attend Vanderbilt beginning this fall as a Seigenthaler Scholar. Each year, Vanderbilt will award a four-year full-tuition scholarship to a minority student in honor of Seigenthaler, chairman emeritus of The Tennessean, and longtime civil rights advocate.

As a Seigenthaler Scholar, Watson, who aspires to become a journalist and host a national television show, will have the opportunity to participate in an internship at the Freedom Forum or the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt.

Seigenthaler, a trustee of the Freedom Forum, founded the First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt in 1991. A former president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, Seigenthaler served for 43 years as a journalist at The Tennessean. At his retirement, he was editor, publisher and chief executive officer. He was also founding editorial director of USA Today.

He left journalism briefly in the early 1960s to serve in the U.S. Justice Department as administrative assistant to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.

In announcing the establishment of the scholarship program, Charles Overby, The Freedom Forum’s chairman and chief executive officer, said the $2 million gift to endow the program was conceived as a way to honor Seigenthaler and to expand the partnership between the organization and Vanderbilt. In addition to the First Amendment Center, the Freedom Forum has established its new Institute for Newsroom Diversity on the Vanderbilt campus.

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