It’s Our Turn
The power one person can have to change your course in life is astounding. For Jim Riley, one of those persons was Herb Taylor, and the influence led to a path of communications and success.
“It was 1976,” Riley says. “I walked in Grauel Building at Southeast Missouri State University, and there was a handwritten note looking for people to help out with a new radio station. I barely made it out of that building for the rest of my college career.”
The note was from the man Riley considers his mentor and his friend. He would also become Riley’s creative partner for more than 20 years in his then future ad agency. Before building a business, however, Riley says Taylor built something much more.
“He was brilliant. Herb exuded a passion for the power of the printed and broadcasted word and image that inspiredand influenced hundreds. He taught me how to communicate and how to write for electronic media. Those skills, when combined with the salesmanship I learned from my other great mentor—my father–have defined my career,” he says.
Today, Riley’s little ad agency employs 50 people and is doing work for clients all over the nation. But the most important thing Riley says he learned from Taylor had more to do with compassion than with communications.
“He demonstrated a love for and recognized potential in just about everyone,” Riley says. “That lesson has been an important asset in my professional pursuits because everyone brings different forms of talent to the table. Herb took the time to really recognize what people had to offer and encourage them. Being a mentor is one of the most generous actions in life.”
Riley is repaying some of that generosity with a $100,000 donation for scholarships and
professional development for the Department of Mass Media and KRCU. He’s also hoping to get others who were inspired by Taylor to contribute. The Herb and Peggy Taylor Endowment for Excellence in Communications seeks an extra $150,000 in funds to offer mass media scholarships, internships for students training in radio and video at Southeast and career mentoring.
“Herb was important to a lot of students,” says Riley. “We want to encourage anyone who worked at KRCU, who took his intro to mass communication classes or who was inspired by his passion to join us in giving back to the new generation of communicators. Whether you want to get involved in speaking and mentoring students or in providing financial assistance or both, it’s our turn.”
After graduating, Riley started Red Letter Communications with fellow Southeast alumni Clint Hasse and Scott Reece, who were also mentored by Taylor. Taylor served as Red Letter’s Creative Director Emeritus until his death eight years ago. Riley says he uses the professional skills and life lessons learned from Taylor everyday.
“Any success I’ve had is based on things I learned from Herb and others like him. Men and women who recognize the raw potential in the young, who take the time to pass on some experience and encourage professional development. We think this endowment can serve as an excellent conduit to connect the communications alumni with current students,” says Riley.
“We hope to perpetuate Herb’s legacy of inclusion, instruction and inspiration. But more importantly we hope to provide an opportunity for the many mass media graduates to reconnect with the University. So many students benefitted from Southeast and from Herb, and they are now rich with experience and professional know-how. We have a lot to offer the students of today, and from what I’ve seen so far, the mentor benefits just as much as the student does.
Riley invites those who worked at KRCU or who graduated from the Department of Mass Media to the Herb Taylor Birthday Bash on Saturday, Oct. 22, Homecoming weekend. Additional information is included in the Homecoming schedule on this website.
“So many of us benefitted from and were inspired by Herb or other professors at Southeast–now it’s our turn to give back, to pass on, to encourage, to support.”
For more information about supporting the Herb and Peggy Taylor Endowment for Excellence in Communications,contact Angie Wilson with the Southeast Missouri University Foundation, (573) 986-6845.