Steven Padgett is music to the ears of the journalism department — literally. If he is around, you better expect to hear music playing. Journalism students are accustomed to seeing their Hall School director walking around the J-School with no shoes and a silly tie. Whether he is in his office or in the journalism computer lab, you will see Padgett sitting with his legs crossed in the chair, no shoes and his music playing. Padgett has been the director for almost 20 years, and the time has come for Troy University to bid him adieu.
“I like seeing him walk around with no shoes on,” said Tom Foreman, CNN correspondent and Hall School of Journalism and Communication alumnus. “I’m not sure what that is all about, but it’s very entertaining. It’s surprising at first but ultimately very relaxing.”
Foreman’s sentiments are similar to that of Kate Rowinsky, who has worked for the Hall School for six years as the school’s administrative assistant.
“It’s like a family down here,” Rowinsky said about the journalism department.
She said that she and several other faculty and staff members feel like they work more with Padgett than for him.
Under Padgett, the Hall School of Journalism and Communication became one of the first to introduce the new major of multimedia journalism, which has replaced the print journalism major.
Padgett said he is pleased with the faculty members adapting to the changes in the Hall School, which reflect the changes in the fields of journalism and communication.
“We have been very aggressive in not only changing with the times, but getting ahead of what the changes are,” Padgett said. “Our faculty members were aggressive and thought outside the box.”
Padgett came to Troy University in 1991 after working six years at Auburn University.
About five years later he became the fifth and final dean of the Hall School, a title that later changed to director when the school was added into the College of Communication and Fine Arts.
Padgett said he came to Troy because he likes that the journalism program “looks not only at the academic side… but looks at the professional side.”
One example of this is Hall School students being required to build and present a professional portfolio that is ranked against other students in their senior seminar class. This process serves to simulate how portfolios will be judged if students were applying for a job.
“Steve is a student-centered teacher, a program builder, a creative problem solver, and a great colleague,” said Hal Fulmer, associate provost and dean of undergraduate and first-year studies.
Foreman thinks that Padgett has “grappled with the very tricky, changing world of journalism,” and feels Troy is lucky to have him as a leader.
Padgett said he hopes that people remember the Hall School as a whole, and that they tried to do well with faculty members, students, and alumni.
“We’ve always tried to do the right thing; do that which was good,” Padgett said. “I don’t think that is uncommon at Troy. It is expected at Troy. It’s one of those things that we’ve really consciously strived to do here in the Hall School.”
“(He is) a man of integrity,” Rowinsky said.
Padgett said he and his wife discussed his retirement four years ago and decided that this was the perfect timing. They bought a trailer and plan to travel to state and national parks, just enjoying their time together.
“I think it’s a real loss for the journalism school that Dr. Padgett is moving on,” Foreman said. “At the same time, I know he has laid the groundwork for good work to continue there, and that is really the measure of greatness.”
The Hall School of Journalism and Communication is not the only part of Troy losing Padgett; the whole university will notice his absence.
“Steve is a problem solver, whether the issue was one affecting a student or a piece of technology or something else,” Fulmer said. “There are never enough problem-solvers in any organization and with his departure; there will be one less at Troy.”
While those around him have warm memories with him, Padgett has fond memories of his own.
“Some of my fondest memories I had no idea were my fondest memories until a couple weeks ago,” Padgett said, “when alumni members started calling up and saying, — I love hearing this phrase — ‘You made a difference in my life. This is what happened. This is what you did, and this is the result of it.’”
Padgett told about several students that have contacted him since he announced his retirement. They would share stories about their time at Troy and how he played a role in their lives.
“Knowing that, in one way or another, you did something that helped another person improve their life, I think that’s really incredible,” he said.
Padgett said that although he is not trained in counseling, he can be a good listener, in order to help people in their times of need.
“You can do things that will improve the lives of others, and that, more than anything else, is what I would call the golden moment,” he said.
Journalism students, and even faculty and staff, have wondered if Padgett has a trap door in his office. They would see him walk into his office, never come out, but enter another part of the Hall School from a different room. The verdict?
“I think the next director of the school would prefer that that secret not be shared,” Padgett said.
The Hall School of Journalism and Communication may never know that secret, but it is no secret that it is going to be a little quieter when Padgett’s music stops this semester.