Grady grads get more than a basic education

In the weeks leading up to the Grady College Centennial Weekend, April 16-19, we'll feature a guest blog post authored by a preselected alumnus/alumna. For ways in which students, faculty, alumni, donors and friends can share Grady College memories and photos in honor of the centennial year, please visit

Perhaps the greatest benefit to being an alum is the clarity of 20-20 hindsight vision. I would like to think as a UGA undergrad I cherished every moment and didn't miss a beat, but the likelihood of that is pretty slim. I can say the exception to this was every class I took at Grady with Professor Conrad Fink. Over his 28-year teaching career, he led a legion of students to the light of what good journalism is really all about.

Something about this professor made you want to remember everything. Maybe it was those impeding eyebrows, that piercing gaze or the precision with which he deconstructed my papers, but as a 35-year-old Grady College alum, I now have the luxury of looking back and culling through those many memories and experiences under his tutelage. I'm acutely aware that those experiences made me who I am today. One memory in particular stands out above the many others.

It was my first semester in the Grady College. It was also my first semester in one of Professor Fink's classes. When I received my first paper back, there was no grade at the top – only the words “See me” scrawled in red. The rest of the pages were left dripping with ink of that same color. On the third page in the margin, I noticed yet another red note. “NeSmith, take this sentence around the barn and shoot it.” That was the moment I realized average work was never going to be good enough. When I finally gathered my courage to go and see him, yes, I was chastised, but he also walked me through what I had done wrong and set me on a new course.

I had the privilege of taking all the classes Professor Fink taught at Grady. He led by example, with the reenforcement of experience. He didn't ask students for their best. He expected it. He didn't push. He squeezed. When he saw talent, he pounced, demanding nothing short of perfection. But when he said your writing was good, you knew without a doubt that indeed it was worth printing. He saw more in me than I did in myself and accepted nothing less than my best work. I have that moment of realization, among many other experiences at Grady, to thank for much of my success.

After serving with other alumni on Grady's alumni board, I've realized that's what's great about Grady. I've found my experience was not too different from other alumni. At Grady, each major holds top-tier professors. Each major has those professors that pull more out of you and expect only your best work. Year after year, the college churns out grads galvanized by these professors. With that experience in common, Grady grads tend to stick together. And now for a century, this network of Grady grads has provided the support, the structure and the framework that has helped shape the industry as we know it.

This Centennial year gives us the unique opportunity to celebrate the college and the people that have made us who we are today. Please join in the celebration and give back to the college that has given us so much.

About the author
Eric NeSmith is 2002 graduate of the Grady College, majoring in newspapers. He serves as the vice president of business development for Community Newspapers, Inc. and is currently serving as the chair of the Grady Society Alumni Board. His recent honors include being named to The University of Georgia Alumni Association's 40 under 40 and Georgia Trend magazine's 40 under 40. He has also been listed as one of Editor and Publisher magazine's top 25 under 35.

More Alumni Reflections:

There's always a friend to be found at Grady by Lauren Patrick (ABJ '07)

It's simple: The Grady family is forever by Michael Gray (ABJ '11)

How to celebrate a centennial: recommit, reconvene, re-engage by Brittney Haynes (ABJ '09)

It's easy to feel a sense of community at Grady by Shannon Sullivan Collado (ABJ '10)

Grady offers growth by Julia Hemingway (ABJ '14)

Date: February 24, 2015
Author:  Eric NeSmith,