From the Classroom to the Hall: Gene Cutshall Yates

HARLINGEN — On April 30th, The University Star, Texas State University’s independent student publication, honored Harlingen resident Gene Cutshall Yates with an induction into the Fred W. Adams Hall of Fame.

Yates served as the editor of the Pedagog in 1949, which was the yearbook for what used to be Southwest Texas State Teachers College.

The following year, she was elected editor-in-chief for the University Star.

After graduating in 1951 and starting a family, Yates found herself making an impact teaching high school journalism in Harlingen.

The Hall of Fame honors former university staff members who pursued a career in journalism, public relations or advertisement, brought innovation to the University Star or anyone who made a significant accomplishment on their community.

Learn a little more about Yates.

Q: What are your thoughts on entering the Fred W. Adams Hall of Fame?

A: I was terribly surprised because it was from a university I have not been to in a long, long time. I did not realize it happened until it was called to my attention that I was the editor of the yearbook and then the paper the next year.

Q: What drove you to want to join the yearbook and the University Star staff?

A: In high school, I worked on the yearbook.

In my sophomore year of college I began to take journalism courses and became knowledgeable of the publications on campus. My freshman year I volunteered at the yearbook.

As I continued taking courses, a sponsor encouraged me to run for the yearbook’s editor position. I had excellent help in office because my friends helped and the journalism department and sponsors were very supportive.

In my senior year in 1951, I ran for the editor-in-chief position of the paper.

Q: Did you ever get a chance to work in journalism outside of your time with the University Star?

A: I worked for the San Marcos record as an intern and one summer I covered the City Hall.

After I married and moved to Harlingen, I was a volunteer through the Chamber of Commerce with the tourist club.

There, I wrote a weekly column with the Valley Morning Star.

Later on, through the Chamber of Commerce, I did some business features.

I had six children before I started teaching, but then I learned the longtime sponsors for the publication at Harlingen High School were going to retire.

They were looking for someone with a journalism background.

I applied and got the job easily, I had not studied to be a teacher.

I took education courses at Pan American and Texas A&I to get the required hours of education to teach.

Q: How fulfilling was it to be able to teach journalism high school students?

A: I was asked to speak at the induction ceremony and I used, as examples, five students.

I had a second-year student one year and his English teacher asked how he could be editor if he didn’t know a noun from a verb.

I replied by saying he was a good listener and reporter. He wrote down and listened to information and when he came back I would show him how to put that together.

One time he interviewed the mayor and he was ready to take on the city commission.

Another example was a young woman who is a civil engineer.

She told me she is a go-to person for reports and releases because she checks the who, what, when, where and why — she learned that by working with the newspaper.

Another student told me years after she graduated that she learned to use the compugraphic type-setting machine.

She could make that sing and dance; she could do everything with it.

When other were talking about college, she was self-conscious because she knew her family could not send her to college, but as a result of her mastering this comps graphic type setter, she and her husband operated a successful print shop.

She attributed that to being a journalism student.

Another student, who lives in St. Thomas and was a photographer and knew the dark room printing techniques and later wrote, went to work for Jacques Cousteau (French explorer, conservationist, filmmaker and photographer).

There were several others, but at that time the year book at Harlingen were set up as businesses.

The students saw they had a responsibility to the staff and each other or the paper couldn’t come out.

It was an invaluable lesson for them to learn.