SEJ's 2011 David Stolberg Meritorious Service Award was presented to the recipient, Chuck Quirmbach, during the 21st Annual Conference in Miami by conference director Jay Letto:
"Folks, I'd be remiss without saying a few words about David Stolberg passing away this year...
"David Stolberg was SEJ's founding father. Back in 1989, David was an executive at Scripps Howard, and he convinced that year's Meeman Award winners to meet in DC to begin the process of founding SEJ. I was fortunate to be at that first gathering, and I remember the excitement.
"We've been honoring David at every conference the past 10 years or so with the Stolberg Award, which is given out annually to recognize the outstanding volunteer work of one of our members... recognize one, among the scores and scores of members whose volunteer work makes this group, well, really something special.
"Okay, now the fun part… I’ve nominated a bunch of Stolberg winners over the years, and many of my picks have won.
"This year, I got to judge too… along with my fellow judges President Carolyn Whetzel and VP Peter Fairley.
"We considered numerous worthy candidates, but, in the end, the decision was easy.
"This guy has put out for SEJ year after year after year. He’s jumped in to save floundering tours and he’s risen up to help beleaguered colleagues.
"He’s always soft-spoken, yet never carries a big stick. He’s simply one of the gentlest and sweetest souls I know. And the S.O.B. almost never, ever curses.
"He’s helped oversee the SEJ elections for years, and he was a conference chair two years ago in Madison… where he finally learned how to curse again.
"Yeah, that’s right… He’s not only our first cheese-head winner… I did some research… he’s also our first red-headed winner.
"He’s our man still holding 'em accountable in Wisconsin… not a small task these days.
"You might recognize the name, or at least the sweet voice, from his many stories that went national on NPR.
"Y’all know who I’m talking about by now… oh yeah… we all love him… Chuck Quirmbach, the mainstay of Wisconsin Public Radio. C’mon up here, Chuck…"
This annual award honors exceptional volunteer work by an SEJ member. It was created by the SEJ board in 1998 and named in honor of SEJ founder David Stolberg.
Much of SEJ's best work is accomplished by member-volunteers: tour and panel organizers for the conference, awards program leaders, contributors to SEJournal, SEJ-talk and www.sej.org, freedom-of-information watchdogs, mentors, and leaders in diversity outreach. Volunteers define the heart and soul of SEJ, and they expand the group's reach and significance in ways that are not easily measured.
David Stolberg had a 38-year career with Scripps Howard that included duties for the Scripps Howard Foundation's annual Meeman Awards for excellence in environmental reporting. Stolberg always believed in "the value of networking, of the subliminal training that comes from an association with one's peers." In the 1980s, when Stolberg was assistant general editorial manager of Scripps Howard, he came up with the SEJ idea and kept suggesting it to Meeman winners until he found one who was willing to put in the volunteer time to organize with other journalists and make something happen. That person was SEJ's founding president, Jim Detjen.
Stolberg died May 24, 2011 at age 83.