My Most Important Lesson
By Claire Regan ’80
Whenever I introduce myself to a Wagner journalism class, I break the ice with a few biographical facts. Associate managing editor of the Staten Island Advance. Faculty adviser to the Wagnerian newspaper and Kallista yearbook. Assistant professor of journalism at Wagner for 25 years.
Then I write the most significant fact on the board: Wagner College graduate, class of 1980.
Wagner bonds last a lifetime and Wagner connections go a long way. This may very well be the most important lesson I teach at my alma mater each semester.
Today, the journalism program is thriving at Wagner. Students pursue it as a minor and complete required internships at sites including the Advance. But back in my day, there weren’t any journalism classes at Wagner. I majored in education, expecting to follow in my parents’ footsteps. Without realizing it at the time, I was learning how to be a journalist on the staffs of the Wagnerian and Kallista.
Wagner connections helped me land my first journalism job soon after graduation.
During my junior and senior years, I was a student worker in the registrar’s office in Cunard Hall. Longtime Registrar Barney Jensen knew of my interest in journalism, and when his friend at the Advance, lifestyle editor Larry Miraldi ’68, mentioned he was looking to fill a job, Mr. Jensen contacted me.
I interviewed with Les Trautmann ’40, editor of the Advance. I don’t remember much about that meeting because I was so nervous, but I do remember that Wagner came up.
“So you’re a Wagner grad,” I recall him saying as he leaned back in his chair and took a puff from his pipe.
Mr. Trautmann hired me as the wedding and engagement writer. It was a part-time, entry-level job, but I loved it. Spelling all those names of bridesmaids, ushers, rabbis, and priests established a useful obsession with accuracy. The job helped me realize that a newsroom was where I belonged.
In the two journalism courses I teach each semester at Wagner, I make sure my students hear how Wagner bonds are threaded through my life. Some of my closest friendships were forged in the Wagnerian office, where long hours and relentless deadlines are still required to get the paper out. There’s Ed Burke ’80, Staten Island deputy borough president; Rich Wilner ’83, a business writer for the New York Post; Rob Weening ’80, a financial executive in California; Debra Bennett ’80, an Episcopal minister on Long Island.
Teaching at Wagner has established another layer of bonds — former students who have become fellow alumni. There’s Abby Albair ’09, an editor at the Valley Press in Hartford, Conn.; Andrew Minucci ’09, who just earned a master’s in sports management from Georgetown University; Jeannine Morris ’05, entrepreneur of a successful beauty and style website; Jill Higgins ’05, marketing manager for an arts organization in Boston; Alexandra Anastasio ’95, programming coordinator at ABC Daytime.
Looking out of my office in the Advance newsroom, I see a dozen colleagues who are my former students — whose Wagner connection landed them their first journalism job, too.
For this alum, teaching at Wagner is a privilege. It’s exhilarating to grow young journalists and watch them thrive on the Wagnerian and in internships at New York City news outlets. I use the opportunity to empower students, teach them how to advocate for themselves, and use their Wagner relationships as they find their way. Because that’s exactly what Wagner did for me.