Press Club of Southwest Florida Celebrates 20 Years

After two decades of service to members and the Naples community, the Press Club of Southwest Florida enters 2017 with a secure future: a $20,000 donation to its journalism scholarship fund.

The $20,000 donation by Phil Beuth, a retired Capital Cities/ABC executive and past NPC scholarship committee chair, was revealed in a surprise announcement at the Press Club of Southwest Florida’s 20th anniversary celebration held at Tiburon Golf Club on Dec. 1.

“I think it is extraordinarily generous, and I’m so thrilled that he felt confident enough in the club to do this,” said Rhona Saunders, who founded the NPC in 1996 with her late husband Terry Miller.

Saunders said Beuth has put a great deal of time and effort into serving as scholarship chair in the past including interviewing and mentoring students. She said she believes that Beuth wanted to see the scholarship program prove it could have lasting results. The fund was named the Terrence J. Miller Memorial Scholarship as a tribute to him when he passed away in 2004.

Connie Kindsvater, the current NPC Scholarship Committee Chair, said Beuth re-invented the scholarship program in 2007 and helped take it to a new level.

The scholarship program awards 4 scholarships per year of $1,000 each on average to Collier County students with an interest in journalism. In addition, the club has an endowed $1,000 annual scholarship at Florida Gulf Coast University for journalism students. Since 2007, the Press Club of Southwest Florida has awarded $55,000 in scholarships to local students interested in journalism.

Stewarding the scholarship fund will play a large role in the club’s future.

“We have made a commitment to the young people in our community that if they want to be journalists we will help them,” Kindsvater said.

Respecting the roots of the Press Club of Southwest Florida’s past is important to incoming President Soni Dimond, Vice President of Beasley Media Group’s Corporate Communications. She said she hopes the club will reflect on successful past endeavors and redirect energies to focus on what’s worked.

Saunders, as part of the “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” speakers panel at the anniversary luncheon, said in the club’s earlier days, several key events helped the club gain traction in the community: One event was the political roast of former Naples Mayor Paul Muenzer, another was a behind-the-scenes exclusive tour of poverty and housing conditions in Immokalee organized by NPC for 100 people.

Yet another event was the Press Club of Southwest Florida’s organization of a government ethics panel discussion at the Collier Athletic Club after the Naples Daily News broke stories related to government corruption and influence peddling by local elected officials in what became known as the Stadium Naples scandal.

In addition, the Press Club of Southwest Florida organized the annual Authors & Books festival that showcased local talent for seven years. Proceeds from the festival helped to fund the NPC scholarship fund.

In the present, “Press Club of Southwest Florida members do a great deal of service when they pick up the phone and call and encourage working journalists,” said Penny Fisher, the newly named Editor of the Naples Daily News and an NPC board member.

Outgoing Press Club of Southwest Florida President Carole Greene, who has served as president since 2012, said: “Leading your Press Club of Southwest Florida these past four years has brought me great satisfaction and joy. You honored me with this responsibility. I hope I honored you with my leadership.”

During Greene’s 4-year tenure, the Naples Press Cub grew from less than 80 members to its current roster of 142.

At the 20th anniversary luncheon, NPC honored founding members and past presidents including:

Joel Banow*
Jim Brandetsas*
Leo Coar*
Tim Corsini (PP)
Joan Curley (PP)
David Elliott*
Donna Fiala (PP)
Jeanne Findlater*
Carole J Greene* (PP)
Arthur Hecht (deceased)* (PP)
Olga Hirshhorn (deceased)*
Phil Lewis*
John “Jack” Mehaffey*
Terrence J. Miller (deceased)* (PP)
John R Nocera* (PP)
George P. Ponte*
Joyceanna “JA” Rautio*
Lois Sabatino*
Rhona Saunders* (PP)
Lois Selfon (PP)
Maureen Sullivan-Hartung*
Edward Thieme*
Fritzi Thorner*
Karla Wheeler*
Bob Wiener*
Sandra Yeyati (PP)

*= founder, PP=Past President

Click here for Full Program

Photos by Ted Epstein

Leave a Reply