A Message from Debbie Smiloff De Louise
Pioneer, Class of ’89
I was a writer, features editor, and secretary on The Pioneer from 1983 until I graduated C.W. Post in 1989. I came to Post as a slightly “older” student who returned to college after working a year as a secretary. I enrolled part-time as an English major to test the waters before I made the full-time commitment.
One of the first things I did was trying to find a way to become involved on campus. I remember walking down the second floor corridor of Hillwood Commons to the activity wing where The Pioneer newspaper office was located. Adam Pardonek, the Editor-in-Chief at that time, spoke to me in his office about my interests in working for the student newspaper. I explained my situation as a new student who had prior experience as a secretary and also enjoyed writing. He suggested that my skills could be put to good use because many of the writers and editors needed help having their stories typed. There was also an opening for a features writer on that year’s paper. I accepted both positions.
My part-time job as secretary was approved by the administration, and I was paid a small wage. The workload sometimes became intense, especially close to deadlines. At that time, I used WordPerfect to input the stories into a computer. Unlike today’s technology, the paper’s layout was done in-house, in a production room, and brought to a printer for copying. My memories of production night dinners on Wednesdays are still clear after all these years. The advertising manager had an agreement with the local Fireside restaurant where the editors could have dinner each week in exchange for advertising copy in the paper. We all looked forward to these meals. Thinking back about eating with the editors as we discussed our stories, I can still taste the fried mozzarella sticks and recall the camaraderie and some of the jokes that were told. We celebrated staff birthdays and other occasions, too.
I still have my desk plaque that reads “Debbie Smiloff” and fond memories of my time on the Pioneer. I also received a special award for my feature writing my first year on the paper: the Lawrence C. Lobaugh, jr. Memorial Award in Journalism. Along with a plaque that is displayed in the Admissions building, I was given an engraved medal. The award had been given in memory of a man whose son had worked on the Pioneer and died much too young. It was quite an honor to receive this award, and I have treasured the medal for 33 years.
I saw many editor-in-chiefs come and go after Adam, who graduated that year. I moved up to features editor and was in charge of that section and the group of writers who contributed articles for it. I worked for Tim Votapka, Janice De Freitas, Valerie Kellogg and Raymond Jasen, and I also came to know the other staff members, editors and writers. Through my interviews for feature articles, I also met professors, students and school administrators. The experience I gained from working on the paper led me to publishing articles in magazines, and, after I married, I published a few books as well.
My first published novel, “Cloudy Rainbow,” actually features some chapters that take place at The Pioneer. My current book, “A Stone’s Throw,” includes a librarian, like myself, who is a Post graduate from the Palmer School. One of the book’s settings is in Brookville, where C.W. Post is located.
Many people say that college is the best years of one’s life. I agree. Even though classes can be tough and there are many additional stresses as one faces impending adulthood, the opportunity for friendships and extracurricular experiences such as those I gained from The Pioneer, cannot be duplicated. I look back on those days and the person I once was and realize how much my participation at the paper made a difference in my life.
I am also happy that, as the Internet and social media have developed ways of staying in touch, I have been able to reconnect with some of my fellow Pioneer friends. Over the summer, I did a book signing at the Levittown Library and was pleasantly surprised when Mike Gannon, a previous Sports Editor on The Pioneer, dropped by. He saw my Facebook post about the event and wanted to surprise me. It was the highlight of my day.
I believe the bond formed among Pioneer alumni remains strong despite time and distance because of the special experiences we shared on the paper. Not all the times were happy or fun, but we were all in them together. We worked to create a product that served the entire campus body. We were proud of our individual achievements but also realized it was a team effort.