From The S’Park Plug to the University Press, Lamar’s student newspaper is still hitting on all cylinders after 93 years of publication. Some of those years, it has hit on four, some on eight, and, in recent years, perhaps even 12. But some years, especially during the Great Depression, it was lucky to be hitting on two.redbird1971

When South Park College, now Lamar University, began in 1923, a Student Publications Board was appointed to study the “wishes and abilities” of the students and the need for a student newspaper. The committee decided that, indeed, the school needed a newspaper. The committee and the student body thought its title should be a namesake for the college, and, consequently, they came up with the contraction for South Park and the word “Plug” to indicate action — hence, The S’Park Plug. Elery Holland was named the first editor. The staff managed to publish four issues for 1923-24, quite an accomplishment for a fledgling little school. E.C. Brodie, an English professor, served as the first faculty adviser.

The Board also decided the school needed a yearbook and named it The Navigator.

During the Flapper era and before the collapse of the Stock Market on Oct. 28 and 29, 1929, student publications flourished. But during the 1930s, money was hard to come by. The newspaper, which was renamed the Lamar Cardinal in 1933, did manage to keep going, but staffs were not able to bring out issues on a regular basis.

The newspaper was renamed The Redbird in 1940, but during World War II, newsprint and staffing were not available, so the newspaper suspended publication for what Americans called “The Duration.”

In 1946, however, the Depression and World War II were over, and Student Publications got back to normal. The newspaper started publishing an edition every other week, and The Navigator started appearing every year. These changes were made to try to establish a separate identity for the college from the South Park school district, which had been its parent.

By the mid-1950s, The Redbird was publishing weekly.

When Lamar gained university status in 1971, the student body voted to change the name of the newspaper to the University Press to give the newspaper an identity correlating with the school’s new status. The name was chosen by then editor Julian Galiano. The Julian M. Galiano Memorial scholarship was created in 2016 to award students pursuing journalism careers.redbirdpg55

In 1976-77, the UP, as it is popularly called, began publishing twice weekly — every Wednesday and Friday.

From 1976 until 1985, the University Press published a slick magazine, also named Cardinal. The publication won every award given to magazines by the Southwestern Journalism Congress and the Texas Intercollegiate Press Association, including sweepstakes (highest points scored by any magazine) for six of its nine years in existence. Again, in 1985, a financial crunch hit the Golden Triangle owing to falling oil prices and Student Publications cut costs by canceling the expensive slick. Later, a newspaper magazine called UPBeat was started as a supplement, more in keeping with today’s trends.

In the meantime, the University Press has grown into one of Lamar’s showpieces. It is the largest student-run business on campus, and it has become one of the most respected student newspapers in the country. Since 1977, the University Press and its magazines have garnered more than 1,200 awards, including first place for Best Non-Daily Student Newspaper in 1994 and 2005 from The Associated Press Managing Editors of Texas and first places in many other competitions. The UP has averaged almost 30 awards a year in those 40 years. The newspaper staff competes yearly in multiple student and professional organization competitions including the Texas Intercollegiate Press Association, the Press Club of Southeast Texas, the Houston-area chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and others, regularly earning awards against seasoned professional journalists.

The staff consistently attracts some of the best students on campus and is open to students from all majors. These staffers have gone on to become leaders in the media industry, including the staffs of all three dailies in the Golden Triangle, teachers of journalism in most of the Golden Triangle high schools, CNN, Turner Broadcasting, The Associated Press, the Houston Chronicle, the Dallas Morning News, editors of in-house publications, heads of advertising agencies, and the list goes on.

The UP also consistently attracts one of the most diversified staffs, both ethnically and culturally, of any organization on campus. In addition, international students have been represented on staff over the years from countries that include, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Ecuador, Sweden, England, Spain, Belgium, Germany, Australia, Vietnam, Taiwan, Mainland China, Japan, India, France, Cuba, Pakistan, Iran, Zimbabwe and Thailand.UP1994

Howard Perkins was director of student publications from September 1976 to May 2011. He served as president, vice president, scholarship chairman, and adviser-of-the-year chairman for the Texas Intercollegiate Press Association. He was elected Adviser-of-the-Year by that organization in 1979 — a lifetime award.

In 2011, the Howard A. Perkins Scholarship was created and is awarded to the editor each year.

Director Andy Coughlan has been with the UP for 23 years, first as assistant director and as director since 2013. Stephan Malick, a former UP editor with 18 years of journalism education under his belt, returned to the UP in 2015 as assistant director.

Although the name “S’Park Plug” died many years ago, it remains apropos in describing the tradition that students since Sarah Woods, that first editor, have continued in making the UP something of which the University is quite proud.

See the University Press Digital Collection online at the Mary and John Gray Library.

Learn more about Lamar University at lamar.edu