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November 22, 2013

FREY: Pyle a leader to keep

Everything I learned about journalism, I learned in Ernie Pyle Hall.

The unimposing limestone building, nestled in the middle of the most beautiful part of Indiana University near the Indiana Memorial Union, was where I spent most of my waking hours while working on my master’s degree.

I never gave much thought to the physical building while a student at IU, but I sure knew all about Ernie Pyle, whose name has been the face of the School of Journalism since 1954.

Ernie Pyle, an Indiana native from Dana and nationally syndicated columnist, wrote his columns in a folksy, down-to-earth manner, always focusing on the common man, the common situation, the common place.

Many of Pyle’s war time columns can be found on the IU School of Journalism website. The snippets about Captain Henry T. Waskow of Belton, Texas, and Sgt. Bill Mauldin of Mountain Park, N.M., are two of my favorites. Columns such as these earned Pyle the Pulitzer Prize in 1944.

He was the country’s first aviation columnist. Amelia Earhart said, “Any aviator who didn’t know Pyle was a nobody.”

Pyle was also one of the first to report the D-Day landing at Omaha Beach on the coast of Normandy.

It was just 10 months later, when Pyle was 45 years old, that he died after being machine-gunned by Japanese forces.

I looked at Ernie Pyle’s larger than life photograph every day when walking through the front doors of the hall that bares his name. I read his columns and listened to professors talk about him in my classrooms. Pyle’s papers and archives are held primarily by the Lilly Library at IU.

I decided back then that Ernie Pyle was my kind of journalist. If I could spend my days writing columns like Pyle, well now, that would be a career well spent.

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