Arkansas SPJ announces scholarship winners

The Arkansas Professional Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists has announced the recipients of two $1,000 scholarships for the 2019-20 academic year and has named a new scholarship in honor of its first female member and president.

The winners are Lauren McLemore of Maumelle and Renato Betim of Fayetteville.

Lauren McLemore
Lauren McLemore of Maumelle is the recipient of the inaugural Charlotte Tillar Schexnayder Scholarship in the amount of $1,000 for the 2019-20 academic year.

Lauren McLemore is a junior at the University of Central Arkansas studying journalism and sociology. She works as the associate editor for the university’s student newspaper, The Echo, and also freelance writes pieces for AY magazine and Arkansas Money and Politics. She said she hopes to use her journalistic training alongside her passion for justice and compassion to be successful in a career in media. She will receive the inaugural Charlotte Tillar Schexnayder Scholarship.

Schexnayder is a longtime Arkansas journalist as well as a pioneering leader in areas long dominated by men. Born at Tillar (Drew and Desha counties) in 1923, she graduated in 1944 from Louisiana State University, where she had served as editor of the student newspaper, the Reveille. She became editor of the McGehee Times in October 1944.

In 1955, Schexnayder and her husband, Melvin, bought the Dumas Clarion, owning the newspaper until 1998. Among her many firsts were becoming the first female member of what was then the Little Rock chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (now called the Arkansas Pro Chapter or Arkansas SPJ) and being elected the first female president of the chapter in 1973. She became the first female president of the Arkansas Press Association in 1981 and first female president of the National Newspaper Association in 1991.

Beyond her journalistic firsts, Schexnayder was the first woman named to the Arkansas Board of Pardons and Parole and was the first female president of the Dumas Chamber of Commerce.

Renato Betim
Renato Betim of Fayetteville is the recipient of a $1,000 J.N. Heiskell Scholarship for the 2019-20 academic year.

Renato Betim is a junior at the University of Arkansas double majoring in journalism and political science. He has worked as a senior reporter at the Eagle View, the student-run newspaper of Northwest Arkansas Community College. After completing his bachelor’s degree, Betim said he hopes to pursue a master’s degree in journalism and report on politics and social issues that impact politics in his community and nationwide. In honor of the 200th anniversary of the Arkansas Gazette, which continues today as the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, he will receive the J.N. Heiskell Scholarship.

Heiskell, owned and edited the Arkansas Gazette for 70 years until his death in 1972. The newspaper won two Pulitzer Prizes during his tenure.

The scholarship recipients will be honored at the chapter’s annual meeting and Diamond Journalism Awards ceremony at 6 p.m. Tuesday, June 25, at the Flying Saucer in Little Rock.

For more information, please contact Jennifer Ellis, chapter president, at or (501) 533-0565.

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