The J. Paul Blakely Awards Competition
In 1986, the East Tennessee Chapter of the Society for Technical Communication established a competition to recognize excellent students in scientific and technical communication and to honor one of our most distinguished former members: J. Paul Blakely.
These awards honor student excellence in technical communications and science journalism. Awards are given in both undergraduate and graduate divisions in the categories of Technical Communication and Science Journalism.
Blakely was an active, well known, and well loved member of STC. At the society level, he’d been assistant to the president for conferences (1984), manager of the strategic planning committee (1981–84), assistant to the president for recognition programs (1979–82), and technical program manager for the society’s annual conference (1980). In 1986, shortly before his death, he was made an associate fellow of the society.
Blakely’s society-level activity did not steal him away from local service or from excellence in his job, however, as many people here still remember with gratitude and admiration. He was three times president of the chapter and was a long-time representative of the chapter in planning WATTec, a local technical conference. As assistant director of the Information Division for Martin Marietta in Oak Ridge, he consistently promoted STC and encouraged potential leaders of the profession and society. His favorite words of encouragement were “Sure you can!” Under his mentorship, many did.
Nor did Blakely’s diagnosis of cancer in the early 80s keep him from personal or professional service. Notably, he organized and led CancerNET, the only cancer support group of its kind in Tennessee. Blakely’s wife, Tinque, continued for many years to honor her husband’s memory with service and contributions to the American Cancer Society, and that organization named a room in their Knoxville headquarters the “Tinque Blakely Crusade Conference Room”—despite her protests that it should bear her late husband’s name.
The night that the first Blakely Award was to be given out—at the 10th annual Practical Conference on Communication (PCOC)—Paul Blakely was very ill and in a hospital receiving treatment for his cancer. His death, it was to turn out, was just a few weeks away. Attendees at the awards ceremony had been saying to each other how sad it was that Paul couldn’t be at the banquet to witness presentation of the first Blakely Award. But during the ceremony, to everyone’s surprise and delight, in walked Paul, who had checked himself out of the hospital so he could attend the ceremony. Still taped to his hands were hospital I.V. catheters.
That kind of behavior was characteristic of Paul Blakely; he refused to let his illness destroy his life while life was still in him. It’s the reason, his wife said, that he had taken the Mensa membership tests two years before his death. To his great satisfaction, he had passed the tests and joined the organization.
J. Paul Blakely is a superb role model for young men and women in our field: a person of compassion, courage, service, accomplishment, and intellect. The chapter could not have done better than to name its awards competiton for him. Every year at the awards ceremony, he is remembered and honored in a short speech. You, too, are honored tonight—as a winner of this year’s J. Paul Blakely Awards. Congratulations, and best wishes for continuing academic success, for a distinguished career, and for a life full of achievement, service, and happiness. Can you have all that? Sure you can!