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COLUMN: School relations, one story at a time

Marti Hogan Pupillo - Editor in Chief, 1977-78 | Friday, November 3, 2006

Little more than a decade after The Observer first hit the dining hall tables, the publication’s editorial board elected its first female editor in chief. Coeducation at Notre Dame may have opened many doors for woman, but not this one; I was a Saint Mary’s student.

That’s not to say that my opportunities for working and advancing at The Observer didn’t benefit from coeducation. On the contrary, they were greatly enhanced by it.

There were several other women, all Notre Dame students, running for the position of editor in chief that night, along with male students. Each one would have done a tremendous job, possibly better than I did, and they proved day after day that they were equally prepared to handle the top spot. Competition was our rising tide, and our boats, then on the third floor of LaFortune, were certainly lifted to a higher level of accomplishment because of it.

My goal as editor was twofold. First, I wanted to build a larger pool of reporters, editors and production staff members, drawing more underclassmen and specifically more Saint Mary’s students to the staff. Second, as grand as it sounds, I wanted to improve relations between the two schools. Looking back, I’m fairly certain we gained ground in both areas.

Although it sounds anachronistic now, nearly 30 years later, we knew that The Observer would tell a richer story with a staff of men and women working together, Notre Dame women and Saint Mary’s women working together. We covered many of the same stories that you read in today’s issues – the love-hate (okay, mostly hate) relationship with parietals, changing alcohol policies and consequences, student government elections and activities, and cultural events to name a few – but we worked tirelessly, as a group, to ensure that a wide variety of voices from both campuses were heard.

Becoming the first female editor in chief was a great achievement, but bridging the two campuses and representing Saint Mary’s as a student leader meant even more to me. I’m not sure that the students – or even administrators, for that matter – on either campus really knew what our ongoing relationship would be during the early years of coeducation. But, at The Observer, we took every word of the tagline, “The Independent Newspaper Serving Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s,” to heart.

Most of all, I appreciated the opportunity to work with a very dedicated, sometimes brilliant, often zany and definitely eclectic group of men and women, none of whom I would have met as a Saint Mary’s student had I not worked at The Observer. We shared a love of words, the need to know and a commitment to communications that transcended our school affiliations, and ultimately we found we had much more in common than we ever imagined.

I’ve been fortunate to receive many issues of The Observer over the years (thank you!) and am continually impressed with the variety of writing styles, student interaction, special sections and, of course, advertising revenue. It was – and still is – a great place to work, to learn, to grow and to contribute to a community that truly never stops giving. I’m glad that my son, now a freshman and, yes, sports reporter, will have the opportunity to continue in this tradition.

As Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s celebrate the 40th anniversary of The Observer, I hope you, too, will share something in common with my year as editor. In 1977, we also featured stories about a great football team and an exciting season; our year ended with a trip to the Cotton Bowl and the national championship. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Marti Hogan Pupillo is communications manager for the Inter-national Dairy Foods Association. She can be reached at mpupillo@idfa.org