In His Own Words

Tom Waldinger, President, Waldinger Creative, shared his thoughts on being the first NAFB Foundation Scholarship winner:

“There was my name. A tiny item among the 84 glossy pages of the January 16, 1978 edition of Broadcasting magazine (“the newsweekly of broadcasting and allied arts”). There it was, nestled in there among the big stories of the day: the Supreme Court agreeing to take on the FCC seven dirty words case, the announced departures of Sally Struthers and Rob Reiner from All in the Family and breaking news about CBS-TV’s planned rollout of its electronic palette and action track systems for the upcoming Super Bowl.

It was the first paragraph under the Media Briefs column: Cash crop. National Association of Farm Broadcasters awarded its first annual $1,000 NAFB Foundation scholarship to Tom Waldinger, senior at University of Illinois majoring in agricultural communications. Award is given to students exhibiting achievement in electronic agricultural communications.

It appeared just two months after I received what I felt then-and still feel today-was an extraordinary honor. As an Illinois farm boy who had the good sense (or good luck) to become involved in the FFA and take on leadership roles at the local, section and state levels, I was very familiar with farm broadcasters in my state, most notably Colleen Callahan, Max Armstrong and Orion Samuelson, among others. But beyond my exposure to radio and TV farm reporters at state and national FFA conventions and through my ag comm coursework, I had only passing knowledge of the NAFB. That all changed, of course, when I got a call from my ag comm advisor, Jim Evans, who told me that Mr. Samuelson, chairman of the NAFB Foundation, had called with some very good news. I was to become the group’s first scholarship winner.

I will never forget the experience of coming to Kansas City, having one of the most amazing dinners with Orion and his wife at the top of the Crown Center Hotel, and over the next few days, being treated like a long-time member of a very nurturing family. I had the chance to meet so many wonderful men and women in the profession-I’d love to name them all here. But the bond was so instant that by the time I was asked to deliver my prepared remarks to accept my scholarship, all of my fretting and nervousness had melted away. I was among friends-good friends. That spirit of friendship continued long after that first meeting and I honestly lost count of the number of NAFB conventions I attended since that first introduction in 1977, not to mention those annual Washington, DC newsmaker gatherings, where I was able to be part of the local organizing committees from year to year.

When I reflect on this unforgettable honor, I think of the many productive seeds it planted in my life and the rich tapestry of personal and professional relationships it began to weave – both within the broadcasting profession and through the many allied professions that lend strong support to the organization’s good works.

Virtually every agricultural communicator has a heart that beats for the sustainable success of American agriculture and a profound respect for those who feed our planet. NAFB’s scholarship only deepens a young person’s love for the profession and fosters an even greater appreciation for the essential work of every broadcaster in serving farmers and ranchers across the nation. Thank you, farm broadcasters. Thank you, NAFB. Thank you, NAFB Foundation.”