Former VHSL Deputy Director for Academic Activities leaves lasting legacy

Button Bob
Bob button. Photo courtesy of the Virginia High School League.

Former VHSL Associate Academic Director Bob Button, one of the nation’s most revered journalism professors, died of pneumonia at Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville on December 23.

Button had a lung infection related to steroid treatment for a skin condition later diagnosed as lymphoma. He was 81 years old.

“Bob Button made substantial and lasting contributions to high school journalism as a teacher and had a significant impact on VHSL’s academic activities which continue to this day,” said VHSL Executive Director Dr John W. “Billy” Haun, Ed.D. “Her life’s work changed the world of high school journalism. This continues through his contributions to the activity programs offered by VHSL member schools, colleagues across the country and alumni.

“I know only a handful of people who have given so quietly, selflessly and graciously to our profession as Bob Button,” said Bobby Hawthorne, former academic director of the Texas University Interscholastic League.

Button spent 11 years (1994-2005) as a student advocate and deputy director of operations for the Virginia High School League. His creative and innovative approaches to VHSL programs led to restructure the forensic program and to move the League towards electronic communication.

His efforts have also led to the creation of the Scholastic Bowl, the addition of new events to the Debate Contest, and the creation of VHSL / VCU Publications partnerships for advanced accredited journalistic education. In addition, Button was the pioneer of the VHSL Journalism Summit and led the VHSL Championship Journalism Workshop. He also organized the summer workshop for high school editors.

A highly regarded teacher, Button taught journalism, English, speaking, and drama at Grosse Pointe South High School in Gross Pointe, Mich., Between 1966 and 1994. Among his alumni was an award winner. Pulitzer, distinguished reporters from major newspapers, including the New York Times and Washington Post, and other major media.

He was named the Dow Jones Newspapers Fund National Journalism Professor of the Year in 1988. In addition, Button has received numerous honors, including inductions to the National Scholastic Journalism Hall of Fame and the Virginia High School League Hall of Fame. He was the first teacher elected to the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame.

Even in retirement, Mr. Button served as a judge for journalism and forensics competitions.

A memorial service will be held Jan. 2 at 3 p.m. at the Gibson Theater at Live Arts in Charlottesville.

The Button family will be posting live information about their Teague Funeral Home obituary.

Daughter Button Wright plans to share details on her Twitter account @kbuttonw as they unfold.

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