To mark the end of a nearly year-long celebration of the Hall School of Journalism and Communication’s 50th anniversary, students, faculty and alumni gathered for the HSJC’s 50th Anniversary Ball and awards ceremony Saturday evening in the Trojan Center Ballrooms.
The ball was the first alumni banquet held since 2013. Dr. Robbyn Taylor, lecturer, student publications adviser and a two-time graduate of the Hall School, said it was a great experience to have everyone back together.
“As a graduate of the Hall School, it was a fun evening reconnecting with former students and meeting alumni I’ve only ever known through social media. Our network of graduates is one of the ways I think our school is unique—there’s a comradery across decades, and our alumni are always ready to encourage and support our current students, whether through job opportunities or reviewing portfolios,” she said. “It was a special treat to not only celebrate our 50th anniversary, but to do it in a way that united alumni, faculty and our students.”
Aaron Taylor, television production coordinator and TROY alum, said it’s always a good thing when alumni are able to be recognized for their contributions to the field of journalism and communications.
“It’s amazing when the Hall School recognizes its outstanding alumni,” he said. “The school has a rich history of producing high quality working journalists, and when the school can take time to recognize the hard work of those alumni it is a good thing. Also at the banquet were current students who can look to these outstanding alumni as examples of what they can accomplish with their degrees.”
The night kicked off with a silent auction featuring signed sports memorabilia and other TROY artifacts followed by a plated dinner and awards presentation. The award recipients are as follows:
Public Relations Alumna of the Year, presented by Peggy Hoomes Jaye, 2012 winner
Heidi Moore Dasinger
“To have Heidi back on campus to honor her years of work was a wonderful opportunity to connect our graduates across the decades,” Taylor said. “Her accomplishments in the areas of public relations and advertising are outstanding, and it shows our current students and recent graduates how they can shape their careers.”
Print Journalism Alumna of the Year, presented by Dr. Robbyn Taylor, 2013 winner
“Kendra is a Jill of All Trades with experience in writing, design and management and is a perfect example of how a Hall School graduate has an understanding of many aspects of journalism and can move seamlessly from one opportunity to the next,” Taylor said. “She’s a perfect example of a journalist who is in the business to serve the public, which is what we teach.”
Broadcast Journalism Alumna of the Year, presented by Stefanie Hicks East
“LaKia Starks was well deserving of the Broadcast Alumni of The Year,” said Aaron Taylor. “I have watched her rise in the broadcast field with great interest. From her start doing weather for us on TrojanVision News to now working for CNN in Atlanta, she has made great leaps. I think it was great for our current students that were in attendance to hear her story about her path to working at the national level from a start right up the road in Montgomery, a place where many of them may see their careers start.”
Outstanding Service Award, presented by Aaron Taylor, 2012 winner
Dr. Robbyn Taylor
“Being recognized for outstanding service to the Hall School is a very special honor for me,” Taylor said. “The Hall School provided me the education and experience needed for a career that spanned television, newspapers and strategic communication. I’m so grateful to be part of the school now as an educator and mentor to ensure our students are prepared to seize whatever career opportunities come their way.”
Young Alumna of the Year, presented by Aaron Taylor
“Jordyn Elston was recognized as the Outstanding Young Alumni, and rightfully so. She has accomplished much in a relatively short time away from TROY,” Aaron said. “She was one of the first TrojanVision alums in over a decade to be hired as a reporter for WSFA News right out school—she got her degree on a Friday and was offered a job the next week. She did amazing work there, and I always enjoyed being able to watch her work on the air. Her move to Emergency Management Agency has her doing a great deal of work to try and help Alabamians in times of need, and she is using her J-School skills to their fullest.”
Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by Barbara Findley Harrington, Journalism Alumni Chapter President
“I have known Gary Stogner since I was a freshman in the HSJC,” Harrington said. “He was a great example of someone who enjoyed our school, and he was on the fast track even then showing how to become an outstanding journalist and public relations person.”
Aaron and Jeff Herring, another double TROY graduate and producer/director for TROY TrojanVision News, presented fellow alum Kyle Bozeman, longtime television manager, with an “ultimate” service award for his many years of dedication to TrojanVision. Bozeman is retiring this June after 25 years at TROY.
“We normally present service awards to our students every year for being the ‘best’ in certain broadcast related categories. Since Kyle is retiring, we felt that ‘best’ wasn’t good enough for a man who has dedicated 25 years to the students and staff of TrojanVision,” Aaron said. “He has touched the lives of way too many people and has shaped too many young journalistic minds to just be considered the ‘best,’ so we went for the ‘Ultimate Station Manger’ award.
“It was a small token in the overall scheme of things, but it was one that was fitting in how we recognize excellence at TrojanVision every year. He was someone that needed to be recognized for his excellence over a number of years, especially as the longest serving station manager in the history of TSU-TV/TrojanVision.”
The event was dually sponsored by the Troy Alumni Association and the Journalism Alumni Chapter, and proceeds from the silent auction went directly back to the JAC in support of a perpetual journalism scholarship.
“The Troy University Journalism Alumni Chapter is hoping to establish a scholarship for qualified applicants to attend the Hall School of Journalism and Communications,” Harrington said. “It is our desire to continue with events such as the silent auction to provide for it. We also can take any donations to add to our treasury with hopes of eventually having a perpetual scholarship established.”
To donate to the scholarship fund, contact Faith Byrd, Director of Alumni Affairs and HSJC alum, by phone at 334-670-3318 or email at email@example.com.
About the Award Winners
Heidi Moore Dasinger
Heidi Moore Dasinger is a 1981 Summa Cum Laude graduate with double majors in broadcast journalism and speech and theatre. She came to Troy State University on a George C. Wallace Leadership scholarship received as the 1976 Governor of Alabama Girls State. She was active during her four years at TSU, representing the university in the Miss Alabama Pageant program three times, placing as third runner-up the year she was Miss TSU and winning the highest talent scholarship each of the three years.
She was active in theatre, playing numerous lead roles in theatrical productions and competitions and touring with the beloved Pied Pipers children’s troupe across south Alabama and north Florida. She also competed for TROY in speech competitions, placing at the state level.
Dasinger was Chaplain of the Phi Mu sorority and the first Delta Kappa Epsilon Fraternity Sweetheart chosen two years in a row. Additionally, she served in Angel Flight and was inducted into numerous honor societies.
Though she was a broadcast journalism major, serving as a campus weather girl and reporter as well as producing commercials at WTBF Radio and serving an internship at WVTM (Channel 13) in Birmingham, her studies came full circle spring quarter of her senior year when she randomly took a public relations course as an elective.
Dasinger began her career as Community Relations Director for a Hospital Corporation of America facility in Cullman and spent the next decade working in three hospital systems in Alabama and eventually Georgia. She quickly became active in statewide healthcare public relations organizations in Alabama and Georgia, serving on two state boards and then as president of the Georgia Society for Healthcare Marketing and Public Relations and representative to the national organization.
Through working for two international healthcare companies and the now-largest health system in Georgia, she says her greatest professional achievement has been to help integrate and elevate comprehensive, consistent, and highly-creative public relations strategies into the broader discipline of marketing. For this, she has won national and state campaign and creative awards over the years.
Dasinger was a marketing and public relations consultant to companies in Georgia and South Carolina for the next 14 years before working in the financial services industry and the healthcare software industry. She now manages business development for Georgia’s largest municipal distributor of electrical power in Georgia’s highly competitive and unique Customer Choice Program.
She has been recognized as a Woman of Achievement by liveSafe Resources, was named the Ernest Barrett Award winner for the Cobb County Chamber of Commerce’s 2019 Leadership Cobb class and is currently a member of the chamber’s Honorary Commanders class.
She resides in Mableton, Georgia with her husband David. She has two daughters with her late husband, and together she and David have four children and nine grandchildren.
Kendra Love spent the better part of two decades as a print journalist in Alabama. Her love for journalism began at age 16, and her passion for storytelling and creating designs to further tell that story only got stronger as her career continued.
She earned her bachelor’s degree in print journalism from Troy in 2008 and was the co-editor of the Tropolitan for two years after having spent her first two years as a staff writer and section editor. After college, she worked briefly as a graphic designer before joining Boone Newspapers at its Troy Messenger location where she worked as a reporter and page designer. In 2010, she was promoted to copy editor, reporter and page designer at the Andalusia Star-News. In 2013, she became the managing editor of The Lowndes Signal and The Luverne Journal.
She returned to the Andalusia Star-News in 2014 to become the managing editor, magazine editor and principal designer. In 2018, she was promoted to president and publisher of The Brewton Standard. She was promoted in 2019 to the president and publisher of The Andalusia Star-News. In 2020, she was promoted to regional publisher of The Star-News, The Brewton Standard and The Atmore Advance.
Wanting to do more in the newsroom, Boone Newspapers named her the regional editor for five newspapers: The Greenville Advocate, The Lowndes Signal, The Luverne Journal, The Selma Times-Journal and The Demopolis Times. In 2021, Love transitioned out of newspapers and is now a media strategist for Alabama Values Progress, a state-based comms hubs dedicated to amplifying the work of progressive partners in Alabama, earned her master’s in strategic communication from Troy University and was named president of the Alabama Press Association Foundation Board.
She has won several APA awards, was a Media Law Fellow in 2019 at the University of South Carolina School of Law and was named Communicator of the Year by the Alabama Association of Conservation Districts in 2016. She also served as the President of the Andalusia Lions Club and a member of the Covington County Children’s Policy Council and the Andalusia Area Chamber of Commerce board. She is married to Chris and they have four children.
LaKia Starks is an award-winning producer and communication expert who produces prominent newscasts while maintaining journalistic excellence and integrity.
Starks received her first shot at telling people stories in high school when she was part of the school newspaper. After high school, she went on to further her education at Troy University, obtaining her bachelor’s in broadcast journalism/public relations and her master’s in strategic communications.
Starks got her start in TV in 2014 at Alabama News Network as an entertainment reporter and eventually producer. After leaving Alabama News in 2016, she moved to Charlotte, North Carolina to serve as producer/booker for FOX 46 Charlotte from until 2019. During that time, she worked as a freelance professor at the Carolina School of Broadcasting from 2018-2019.
Starks left Charlotte in March 2019 and moved to FOX 5 Atlanta as a producer for Good Day Atlanta. She held that position until October 2021 before accepting her current role as line producer for CNN/HLN Atlanta.
In addition to her full-time job as a journalist, she has hosted the Carolina Music Video Awards, the Chino’ Arte’ By Wayne Fashion Show, the One Mic One Shot Talent Showcase, the BET Hip Hop Awards in 2019 and 2021, the BET Soul Train Awards, Red Carpet screenings and Tyler Perry Studio. She also enjoys public speaking and volunteering to speak to high school students and future journalists about furthering their education, financial literacy and why maintaining your mental health is important. When she isn’t volunteering to speak to future journalists, she is giving back to her community by donating and volunteering in other capacities.
Her goal is to become an executive producer in a top 10 market, teach online journalism classes and to continue being a pillar in her community and career field.
Dr. Robbyn Taylor
Dr. Robbyn Brooks Taylor is a lecturer in the Hall School of Journalism and Communication. She earned both her bachelor’s in broadcast journalism and master’s in strategic communication from TROY and completed her Ph.D. in communication at Regent University. She specializes in mobile journalism and multimedia journalism techniques, and also works with the department’s broadcast, advertising and public relations students.
Taylor is the student publications adviser for TROY’s student newspaper, The Tropolitan, and the school’s yearbook, The Palladium. Before joining the Hall School’s faculty, she worked as a photojournalist at WSFA in Montgomery, a reporter at WNCF in Montgomery, a reporter, mobile journalist, columnist and editor for Freedom Communications in Northwest Florida (The Destin Log, The Northwest Florida Daily News and The Crestview News Bulletin), an international spokesperson and media coordinator for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in Washington, D.C. and as managing editor of The Messenger in Troy.
Taylor has garnered awards for her journalism writing both in Florida and Alabama and has won top paper awards from divisions in the Southern States Communication Association, the National Communication Association and the Religious Communication Association. She is currently the vice chair of the Political Communication Division of the Southern States Communication Association, the president-elect of the Southeast Journalism Conference and on the editorial board of Artifact Analysis.
Taylor attended TROY with her husband of almost 10 years and fellow Hall School faculty member Aaron Taylor. The pair shares a son, Brooks, who has made many friends at TROY over the years.
Jordyn Elston is the Senior Communications and Public Relations Specialist for the State of Alabama Emergency Management Agency where she executes public information campaigns to deliver life-saving information to Alabamians. She has led communications efforts for multi-million dollar disasters such as Hurricane Sally and Hurricane Zeta in this role.
During her career, she has also worked as a television news reporter and anchor covering historic moments including Black Lives Matter protests, Alabama’s first COVID cases, the fatal Beauregard tornadoes and John Lewis’ final bridge crossing reenactment at the 55th Bridge Crossing Jubilee in Selma.
Elston is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Organizational Management from Carolina University. She attended graduate and undergraduate school at Troy University where she earned her master’s in strategic communication and graduated summa cum laude with her bachelor’s in broadcast journalism.
During her time at TROY, Elston served as the Student News Director for TROY TrojanVision News and was awarded the Southeastern Journalism Conference Best Hard News Reporter award in 2017 and the Best Television Anchor award in 2016. She is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and enjoys participating in local community events in her free time.
Gary Stogner worked in Wright Hall a month before registering for his first college class at TROY, was employed in the University Relations and Sports Information Office while actively attending classes and started his professional career on the day of his commencement in 1974 when he took off his cap and gown and assisted the news media covering graduation activities. While working at TSU, 18 of the sports media guides and game programs he wrote won national awards, and five of them were judged Best in the Nation. Stogner left TSU in the summer of 1979 when he was hired at the University of Alabama’s Sports Information Office.
In 1992, he was named Public Relations Director for the Florida Division of Tourism. In less than two months on the job, he implemented a crisis communications plan in response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Andrew and the subsequent murders of 12 international visitors. The integrated plan was judged Best in the World for marketing excellence and received a Global Tourism Award at the World Travel Market ceremonies in London. The importance of crisis communication planning led him to be the keynote speaker at statewide tourism and public relations conferences in New Jersey, Tennessee, North Carolina, Louisiana and Florida.
Stogner was later hired as the first state travel director for West Virginia and launched the state’s first international marketing campaign before returning to Florida as account director for the advertising agency handling the state’s tourism account. During his time at the agency, they won numerous regional and one international award. He also negotiated the first strategic marketing alliance for Florida tourism, a million dollar deal annually. He later managed multimedia cooperative marketing campaigns for leading destinations, including Florida, California, Hawaii, Colorado, Las Vegas, New York City, Chicago and New Orleans. In 1998, Stogner was proudly recognized as the Hall School of Journalism’s Alumni of the Year.
Stogner said his favorite creative writing assignment involved writing a 16-page magazine insert about Tahiti for Travel & Leisure and Food & Wine magazines. “I have never been to Tahiti, but I wrote it and Tourism Tahiti loved it and said it produced more business than it ever expected,” he said.
He retired in 2018 with a 360-degree view of the tourism industry working at a convention and visitors bureau, the private sector side with a cruise line, a state tourism office and an advertising and marketing agency specializing in travel and tourism.