|Cathy Leigh Duncan|
“Beginning my college education in the Journalism Department at San Antonio College was the smartest thing I ever did. I wish I could take credit for this brilliant decision. But, I can't. I only began at SAC because financially I had no other options,” Duncan said.
“Although Highlands High School classmates had teased me about going to ‘San Pedro High’ as they called it, I found a challenging, national-award-winning journalism program."
W.B. Daugherty, Lynnell Burkett, Jerry Townsend and Chet Hunt figured out all my weaknesses and then strove to make me a better writer, speller, designer and interviewer,” she added.
One of Duncan's responsibilities
at the UT Health Science Center
San Antonio is this magazine.
In Daugherty’s classes, one misspelled word meant an F on a story. If it wasn't perfect, don't even think about turning it in was his credo, she recalled.
“Weeks after high school graduation, I learned that on second round I received the four-year Baumberger Endowed Scholarship, and after two years at SAC and working on The Ranger, I transferred to UT Austin's print journalism program,“ she said.
“I can still remember my first semester in a writing class at UT Austin. I was so afraid the other students who had been at UT their first years were ahead of me in journalism knowledge. After our stories were graded, they were put in a box in alphabetical order, she recalled.
"Of course, I had to sneak looks at the other students' stories as I searched for mine. While I got 90s and 95s on stories with perfect AP Style adherence, perfect spelling, and written in pyramid style, the other students received much lower scores. They didn't even know AP Style.”
She recalled that in a later semester at UT in a newspaper design course the majority of the grade was redesigning every element of the Wharton, Texas, newspaper.
“While other students found this a formidable project, I loved it! I had learned so much from Mr. Hunt about page design, fonts, point size, photo placement and use of other graphic elements that I was more than prepared to take on the task,” said Duncan, who had served as editor of The Fourth Write magazine at the college.
Duncan doesn’t believe she would have been able to earn her bachelor of journalism degree had she gone to UT Austin straight out of high school. “I would not have been prepared academically or psychologically. Had I been at UT in classes of 500 as a freshman, no one would have fixed all my weaknesses. No one would have made me better. I would have been lost in a large sea. I am forever thankful to SAC and the incredible foundation it provided me,” she said.
Duncan was at the college from 1985-1987. While in college, she worked at the San Antonio Express-News and Austin American-Statesman. “My high school journalism teacher, Gary Harlow, was kind enough to get me in front of Jim Moss at the E-N who introduced me to Kris Paledes who hired me as an editorial assistant for The Weekender and Star magazines,” she said.
After graduating she held reporting stints at The Huntsville Item and McKinney Courier-Gazette. Moving back to San Antonio in late 1993, Duncan found writing jobs scarce since the San Antonio Light closed its doors in late 1992. Broadening her job search, she was hired as executive producer of talk shows on KTSA AM 550 where her journalism experience prepared her for arranging on-air interviews for the talk show hosts.
After having her first son, Duncan decided to move on to a less demanding and stressful career. She served as a writer/media liaison at Our Lady of the Lake University. She later moved to the UT Health Science Center San Antonio as publications editor of the university magazine.
Seeking a more flexible schedule after having her second son, Duncan spent 11 years in new home marketing where she oversaw marketing materials, signage, special events and budgets. Freelance writing and photography on the side allowed her to continue writing and interviewing.
With her sons almost grown, Duncan decided it was time to return to her real passion. Where could she return to writing, editing and publications? Where could she market a product she truly believed in? Where could she be financially compensated fairly with great benefits? All roads pointed back to higher education.
Former co-workers at the Health Science Center helped her get her foot back in that door. After working for three years as a media relations officer in communications and a year as a senior marketing specialist in marketing, Duncan has moved into her dream job as director of communications for Institutional Advancement.
Duncan said she is thrilled she gets to oversee magazines for the schools of dentistry, medicine and nursing, the annual report for the Cancer Therapy & Research Center (soon to become UT Health San Antonio M.D. Anderson Cancer Center) and other smaller publications.
And, she is learning how to make an online version of each publication. Here is the first online version of the printed Salute magazine for the School of Dentistry: