The Red Pen Lives On

KU journalism students who worked with adviser Tom Eblen at the University Daily Kansan student newspaper are familiar with his red pen. 

During Eblen’s tenure, the Kansan published five days a week. Each day, students in the newsroom were greeted by Eblen’s thorough critique of the day’s edition, written in red, felt-tipped pen and tacked to the bulletin board. 

Eblen, who died in 2017, joined the William Allen White School of Journalism as the Kansan adviser and general manager in 1986, a role he filled for 15 years. And during those years, he made lasting connections with students. 

“Tom and I have been fortunate to know so many interesting people, and it’s been a true gift,” Tom’s wife, Jeannie Eblen, said. Even if they didn’t stay in journalism, “we wanted them to do well and keep in touch no matter what field they were in.”

Tom’s compassion, leadership, wit and mentoring skill didn’t go unnoticed. When he died, former students posted hundreds of messages on social media, sharing the impact he had on their lives. 

Joel Zeff, who graduated from KU with a journalism degree in 1990, was one of those former students. In 2013, he decided on a whim to establish the Tom Eblen “In Honor of the Glorious Red Pen” Scholarship. 

Zeff provided the fund’s seed money and then contacted a small group of alumni to donate toward the $30,000 goal. Word spread, and support for the scholarship reached beyond KU and to Eblen’s friends and colleagues across the region. The goal was met within a year. Today, the fund totals nearly $50,000 thanks to more than 125 donors. 

“I sent out some emails and posted on social media to people who were at KU around my time frame, and it grew from there,” Zeff said. “This is a testament to what one person can do, and how community comes together as a result.”

He said anyone can honor a mentor or professor who inspired them with a scholarship that will help the next generation. 

Katie Kutsko, 2016 journalism graduate and Eblen scholarship recipient, works at the American Press Institute in Washington, D.C. She said scholarships made it possible for her to attend KU. “Everything I learned at the Kansan laid the foundation of knowledge that led to internships, connections and — ultimately — my current job,” she said.


J-SCHOOL CONNECTIONS: Tom Eblen (left) remained close to the Kansan newsroom and journalism students long after his retirement. Eblen scholarship recipient Katie Kutsko (right) showcased her interview skills with Eblen at an award ceremony in 2015. Kutsko attended the event with her parents, Mike and Terry.

You can help

To support scholarships for deserving students, email Whitney Schieber or call 785-832-7463.