Kelly Furnas honored with NSPA’s Pioneer Award

The lecturer in the School of Communications is one of five award recipients recognized with the National Scholastic Press Association’s highest accolade for journalism educators.

Kelly Furnas, lecturer in the School of Communications and faculty mentor for Elon News Network, has been named a National Scholastic Press Association Pioneer Award recipient, acknowledging his passion for — and contributions to — scholastic journalism.

Kelly Furnas
Furnas is one of five 2018 Pioneer Award recipients recognized for making substantial contributions to high school journalism programs and scholastic journalism education outside their primary employment. According to the NSPA website, the Pioneer is the highest honor NSPA awards to journalism educators.

This year’s other honorees include Rick Brooks, creative design manager at Jostens; Carrie Faust, teacher and yearbook adviser at Smoky Hill High School in Aurora, Colorado; Sally Renaud, executive director of the Illinois Journalism Education Association; and Dow Tate, journalism teacher at Shawnee Mission East High School in Prairie Village, Kansas.

The five award recipients will be recognized at the Journalism Education Association/NSPA Advisers Awards Luncheon in November at Chicago Hyatt Regency. NSPA maintains a composite plaque of all Pioneer winners at the association’s headquarters in Minneapolis. Candidates are nominated by previous Pioneer winners and NSPA board members.

In her nomination letter Val Kibler, who has worked with Furnas at the state and national levels, commended the former JEA executive director for his mentorship and leadership.

​“He is the ultimate professional,” Kibler said in the Pioneer Awards announcement. “His innovative, forward-thinking personality has made him one of the premiere names in our field.”

Additionally, former JEA president Mark Newton echoed those sentiments, adding, “Kelly is well read, well versed, and in education for the right reasons. He is truly a master educator.”

In 2017, Furnas was one of seven recipients of JEA’s Medal of Merit for contributing significantly to scholastic journalism throughout his career. He was also honored with the Virginia Association of Journalism Teachers and Advisers Award, which recognizes organizations and individuals that have furthered scholastic journalism in Virginia.

A graduate of Kansas State University, where he majored in journalism, Furnas was night editor at the Tallahassee Democrat in Florida for four years, while also earning a master’s degree in business administration from Florida State University. He later moved west to become assistant business editor of the Las Vegas Sun and managing editor of a weekly business journal.

In 2005, he began five years at Virginia Tech as editorial adviser for Educational Media Co., where he trained, critiqued and motivated students across media platforms.