CQS 25th Anniversary Tribute: Sean Jensen

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Sean Jensen (Summer 1996)
Author, “The Middle School Rules” children’s book series

Defining moments in life are inevitable.

No one, regardless of race, religion, gender or class, can exist without facing adversity many times over.

I do not know what John and Loie Quinn had overcome before June 3, 1990. I can only imagine the shock and pain they felt and their lament when their son Chips died in a car accident that day at age 34.

Yet out of tragedy an enduring legacy was born.

I am one of the nearly 1,400 men and women of color whom the Chips Quinn Scholars program handpicked, encouraged and gave the opportunity to help diversify newsrooms across the country.

I’ve earned many awards and distinctions since graduating from Northwestern University. Yet being a Chips Quinn Scholar remains a fixture on my one-page resume.

That’s not because of my initial paid – yes, paid! – summer internship at The Tennessean in Nashville, which I parlayed into an internship at The Boston Globe.

Rather, being a Chipster means you belong to a special group, with each member knowing he or she is a part of a bigger team, a broader dream, a grander vision.

That dream and vision aren’t yet realized; diversity continues to be an issue in newsrooms across the country. But the Chips Quinn Scholars Program for Diversity in Journalism is still a part of the solution.

I covered the NFL for 15 years, and although I’m no longer at newspapers, I remain committed to journalism. I have taught two semesters at the University of Minnesota’s j-school. I am a founding leader of the Asian American Journalists Association’s Sports Task Force, and I mentor many young reporters.

I don’t remember exactly what John Quinn told me and my Chips Quinn classmates on the rooftop of the Freedom Forum building during the spring of 1996. But I’ll never forget this: “Care, Care, Care.”

John wasn’t just talking about our job. The words apply not only to what we do in the profession but also to what we do in life, the highs and the lows.

That’s the distinguisher, the difference-maker for the Chips Quinn Scholars program. Loie, John’s late wife and co-founder of the CQS program, cared. John cares. Karen Catone, the program’s longtime director, cares. And Michelle Hedenskoog, who has long assisted Karen, cares.

Through their example, we Chipsters care for one another, helping to recruit and select incoming classes, recommending program alumni for openings and offering assistance and support when we join newsrooms that employ CQS alumni.

I’ve seen all that and more.

The Chips Quinn Scholars program celebrates 25 years. A spirit runs through the program that will remain forever, and I’m blessed to be a part of the Chips Quinn family.

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