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'The heart and soul of the place': Marjorie Blewett, advocate of IU journalism, dies at 91


Marjorie “Marge” Blewett IU alumna and former administrator  died Feb. 15 at Bell Trace Health & Living Center. She was 91 years old. Courtesy Photo Buy Photos

IU alumna Marjorie “Marge” Blewett is known as an IU journalism trailblazer and even has her own holiday, Marjorie Blewett Day, in Bloomington.

Blewett, former Indiana Daily Student editor and placement director for the School of Journalism, died Feb. 15 at Bell Trace Health and Living Center in Bloomington. She was 91.

Blewett leaves behind an illustrious career at IU. She attended IU in 1944 and became the editor of the IDS her senior year. From there, Blewett went on to work at Bloomington’s Daily Herald and the Lafayette Journal and Courier. She then returned to the Daily Herald-Telephone, the renamed Daily Herald and current Herald-Times, and worked as the news editor. 

“Women like her were not that common in leadership positions at the time,” said Ron Johnson, former student media director and friend of Blewett.

She married Harry Blewett in 1956 and had two children. Blewett quit her job to raise her family. Daughter Joy Shayne Laughter wrote in an obituary that this was typical of the time, but was too conventional for Blewett.

Blewett got back into journalism and began working part time as assistant editor of the IU Alumni Magazine in 1960, and soon after became a lecturer in the journalism program. She quickly took on a full time job as placement director, a position that Blewett herself created.

She took on numerous responsibilities including planning events, starting an alumni newsletter and creating the Journalism Alumni Board.

Laughter wrote that Blewett’s most complex project was overseeing the 1973-1976 remodeling of Ernie Pyle Hall. 

She also created a fund with the IU Foundation to support journalism students working unpaid internships.

“She was an advocate for IU journalists, and she was very proud of her students,” Johnson said.

Blewett retired in 1990 after her husband died in 1988. But she was not finished yet. She began writing a column for the alumni newsletter and continued to work with students.

Laughter said Blewett knew how to listen to people and make them feel special. 

“We’re in an age of a lot of digital networking, but remembering how to really keep in touch with a person was important to her,” Laughter said. “She was just a hub of information, and she connected alumni with students in the journalism program. She was the human connector for relationships.”

Her advocacy for journalism and for students did not go unrecognized. Blewett was inducted into the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame in 1999, and received the Distinguished Alumni Award in 2011 and President’s Award in 2013. Then-mayor Mark Kruzan declared Blewett’s birthday, March 5, “Marjorie Blewett Day” in 2011. 

Martie Dietz, friend of Blewett who met her through the Ernie Pyle Society in 2000, said Blewett helped her get back into journalism. Dietz wrote a book, and the Herald-Times wrote an article about it, stating that Dietz was an IU journalism alumna. After Blewett reached out, the pair became best friends.

“We hit it off, and we have been close friends all these years,” Dietz said. “We would go out to eat two or three times a week.”

Blewett reminded Dietz of her love for journalism, and Dietz is now on the alumni board.

“In the beginning, I was her guest everywhere,” Dietz said. “I used to say I lived in the wake of Marge Blewett.”

Blewett introduced Dietz to her friends Del and Carolyn Backer Brinkman. Del is a member of the Student Media Board, and Carolyn is the widow of Jack Backer, first publisher of the IDS. The four became close. Dietz said they got breakfast together every Sunday.

“She called us the foursome,” Dietz said. 

Del Brinkman, who met Blewett in 1963 at IU, said their bond was instant.

“The four of us just gravitated together and became very close,” Brinkman said. “She kept up with people and their relationships right up until the end.

Dietz said the effect Blewett had on her own and others’ lives is not to be taken lightly.

“Marge is one of a kind,” Dietz said. “She has helped so many people along the way. She helped me as a friend, not just a co-worker, and she will really be missed.”

Blewett knew so many others in the world of journalism and became a mentor.

Johnson, who became the IU Student Media director in 2008, said he immediately sought out Blewett when he came to IU.

“She took me under her wing and taught me and trained me,” Johnson said. “We are both lovers of history and of the IDS. We had the same cynical journalism sense of humor, and we laughed together a lot.”

He said he was always impressed by her knowledge and passion for the journalism school.

“She was an advocate for IU journalists and was very proud of her students,” Johnson said. “She was a staunch defender of the IDS, and always defended our independence and freedom.”

Blewett became an icon and constant supporter of IU journalism, said Stephanie Kuzydym, who was the former sports editor for the IDS and received a scholarship through Blewett. Kuzydym said Blewett always checked up on her.

“When you’re a student, you doubt yourself a lot,” Kuzydym said. “But she championed us even if we didn’t actively reach out. She was always our silent supporter.”

Blewett went out of her way to assist students. George McLaren, who worked at the IDS for several semesters, said she had an incredible impact on him.

McLaren said while he was hunting for a job, Blewett called a newspaper editor and said great things about him. He got an interview and got the job. McLaren went on to work in journalism for 25 years after this. He said Blewett helped students like him in the journalism school without a second thought.

“She was the heart and soul of the place,” McLaren said.

Blewett is survived by her son Daniel Blewett, her daughter Joy Shayne Laughter and her granddaughter, three step-grandchildren and two great-granddaughters.

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