Reflections: Remembering John C. Quinn

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John C. Quinn was the grandpa you always wanted, the editor you always needed and the cheerleader you didn’t realize you had until you could use it most.

As a new journalist, I couldn’t have asked for a better audience.

I had the privilege of writing for John’s hometown paper, The Providence Journal, shortly after I went through the Chips Quinn Program. I’m pretty sure he never missed an edition, because whenever I’d come to see him at the Mill, John would tell me in detail how much he enjoyed some story that I’d written and long since forgotten. He’d tell me to keep up the good work and that he was proud of me — just the kind of thing you need to keep you going when you’re just starting out — or even a decade into this business.

Talia Buford (left), John Quinn and Nandini Jayakrishna.

I’m sure that Chipsters over the years could tell similar tales: if you were a Chipster, no matter where you were, JCQ was your biggest fan.

The Quinns started the Chips Quinn program to keep the legacy of their son alive. The love they had for Chips permeated everything they did, and it spread to us. We weren’t just a part of a program: we were part of the Quinn family. And you felt that with every hug or hand-typed note from John.

The Chips Quinn program gave me the confidence (and support) to weather self-doubt and growing pains as a young journalist. For years, I regularly consulted the training binder from orientation that I kept on my desk at work. (And it’s still one of my first references for workshops!) That confidence would prove vital as I progressed in my career, in newsrooms where I would often be one of the few people of color. The Chips Quinn Program laid the groundwork to help me claim my place there.

A few months ago, as I gave a presentation to college journalists on how to do social justice reporting, I shared a lesson I learned more than a dozen years earlier at Chips Quinn orientation: Care, care, care. Take it and show it.

John took care with each person who came through this program and showed his love for us every chance he got. Now, we are his legacy. I just hope we can continue to make him proud.

Talia Buford (Summer 2004), reporter, ProPublica


The Chips Quinn program has changed the face and fabric of newsrooms across the country thanks to John and Loie Quinn’s vision and commitment to diversity. For more than 25 years journalists of color have been trained by Chips Quinn.

John Quinn and Kristen Go.

The program gave me the confidence in my skills, support to grow as a journalist and the idea to dream big — that one day, I could become a top newsroom editor who could hire other Chips Quinn Scholars.

I was lucky enough to achieve that goal when I became one of the few top editors of color — the managing editor at the San Francisco Chronicle — and helped hire other Chips Quinn scholars.

Despite going through the program more than 20 years ago, John Quinn was always one of my biggest cheerleaders. I have countless typewritten letters from him with words of praise, encouragement and parenting advice. John Quinn’s mantra was “care, care, care,” and it showed.

Kristen Go (Summer 1996 and 1997)


John Quinn and Colleen Fitzpatrick.

My life has been deeply enriched by my 18 years as a coach with the CQS program and by my relationships with the scholars and with Loie and John. I’m grateful to have had John’s friendship these many years. Recalling his accomplishments, sense of humor, compassion and embrace of life in the face of tragedy and repeated loss will light my way for the rest of my days.

Colleen Fitzpatrick, CQS Career Coach





A handwritten note from John Quinn to Sue Serna.

Flabbergasted and devastated. This man’s dedication to both journalism and diversity in the newsroom was unmatched. He taught me to be five minutes early for everything. He taught me that hugs are the only currency you need. He taught me to passionately care about and defend the First Amendment. He taught me to be a better journalist. And he was somewhat responsible for me and Javier crossing paths several years ago. Someone more eloquent than me will write the right words. For now, Mr. Quinn, all I can do is send you my biggest hug and say I’m sorry I didn’t write more often.

Sue Stock Serna (Summer 2000), social media and analysis manager, Cargill


Journalism is a little lesser tonight after the loss of this amazing and generous man.

Thank you, Mr. Quinn, for all you, your family and your Chips Quinn Scholars program friends and colleagues did to diversify this industry of ours and create an army of Chipsters to help carry on this vital and unending work.

That was the journalism.

But equally important, for me, was seeing how you modeled a marriage in this crazy business with your best friend by your side.

Loie and John Quinn.

I’ll always remember talking with your beloved Loie at dinner one night, and asking how you all made it work as a couple all those many years. Her reply, I’ll never forget: No matter what happened that day, good or bad, and especially if we are mad at each other over something, before the lights go out and we fall asleep we stop and say “I love you” to each other.

If there is a silver lining here amid this sad news, it’s that you two are reunited tonight.

Seth Prince (Summer 1999), student media digital and design adviser, University of Oklahoma


Thank you John Quinn for the gift you gave to newsrooms throughout the country, not only in your years of service, but also with the Chips Quinn Scholars program. The diversity, tenacity, mentorship and professionalism needed now more than ever in American journalism is there in a big part thanks to you and Loie and all you did in memory of your son Chip. I will forever and always be honored to have been a Chips Quinn Scholar. I promise to continue speaking truth to power, to staying focused on the facts, carrying myself with integrity and defending the First Amendment with all that is in me.

Vanessa Casavant (Spring 2006), senior digital content strategist, Seattle Children’s Hospital


From left: Cat Camia, the late Dick Thien, John Quinn and Colleen Fitzpatrick.

John Quinn’s commitment to the truth in news and growing the next generation of journalists were palpable from the moment you met him. Chips Quinn Scholars training sessions were rejuvenating, and often reminded me about my own career choices and the debt I owe to leaders like John who paved the way for journalists of color.

I would occasionally send John a note to say hello and a line or two about how USA TODAY was adapting to the changing news industry. He’d reply with an encouraging word and a reminder to keep moving onward and upward — and to pull others over the wall.

John often said he hoped there would come a day when you could walk into any newsroom and find a Chipster. Sure enough, Kellie Mejdrich (CQS Spring 2013) is thriving here at CQ Roll Call. John would be proud of Kellie, her energy and drive, and most of all her determination to get to the bottom of funding problems that vex the Veterans Administration and her recent magazine story on Arlington Cemetery’s expansion plans. Kellie and all the Chipsters are part of John’s legacy – a rich one that will live on.

Catalina Camia, policy editor, CQ Roll Call


When I saw that John Quinn died, I was overtaken by emotion. I owe so much to the Chips Quinn program. I thought about being a 20-year-old going to Chips Quinn orientation in D.C., dreaming of being a baseball writer. I thought of him dying the day I was in Miami covering the All-Star game. I cried. I most certainly would not be here without the Chips Quinn program. And hundreds if not thousands of journalists wouldn’t be where they are with Quinn’s dedication to diversity.

R.I.P. to the man. Long live the legacy.

Mike Osegueda, (Summer 2000), baseball writer, Yahoo Sports


Countless newsroom executives, managers and staffers speak of the benefits of increasing diversity in their newsrooms. John C. Quinn actually did something about it, and succeeded, too.

The journalism world is better for having had John, and his wife, Loie, too. I want to be sad over his death (and I am), but that’s quickly pushed aside by knowing first-hand what he helped set in motion.

My life changed when I was accepted into the Chips Quinn Scholars program. Absolutely. No qualifications. I was given an opportunity to learn from people who’d come before me, and I made friendships that have grown and endure to this day. I know that when I need it, there are hundreds of people I can ask for help because of the common tie we all share: Chipster.

Rest in peace, John. And thank you. We are better — the world is better — for having had you in our lives.

Joe Ruiz (Summer 2006), weekend editor, NPR


Many opportunities have opened for me because The Associated Press sent me to this j-training program at my first job – an internship – out of college. While there, I met one of the more-passionate men I have ever met, one who truly believes in his mission and in the students he helps teach. The true lessons learned from him went beyond how to shoot a video or put together a slideshow. He taught me many things about being a journalist in all areas of my life. I owe a big portion of any successes I might have as a journalist to this man’s program. R.I.P.

Marco Santana (Spring 2009), tech, defense, space, finance reporter, Orlando Sentinel


I was fortunate enough to spend much of my journalism career in Florida because nearly every year, John would invite Chips Quinn alums to lunch at his winter home in Cocoa Beach.

John Quinn and Daniela Velázquez.

I’ve been reflecting on how you never know where your next opportunity will come from, or where it will take you. The beginnings of my career I owe to my first internship as a Chips Quinn Scholar at the Statesman Journal newspaper in Salem, Ore. It gave me the opportunity to get the experience that would help me land my first full-time journalism job in Tallahassee.

Without that start, I don’t know where I’d be today.

The program proved to be more pivotal in my life that just giving me a shot at my first job in the news business.

My first weekend living in Florida, John had an alumni lunch. There I met another Chipster who would be instrumental to getting my next journalism gig in Tampa, where I spent seven years learning about news, made friends of a lifetime and learned most of the other things you figure out in your 20s.

During a rough patch early on in my career, I had some of John’s advice taped to my workstation: “Illegitimi non carborundum” (way before it came back into public consciousness). It means, “don’t let the bastards get you down.”

Now, as I look back, I think about another phrase he shared with all of us Chipsters: “Care. Care. Care.” There are at least 1,000 alums who went on to newsrooms and storytelling places because John and Loie cared enough to propel the grief of their son into a legacy for their entire family. And his life is a reminder for me — and all of us — to care enough to provide opportunities for the next generation.

Thank you, John.

Daniela Velázquez (Summer 2005), director of communications, ACLU of Missouri


I am writing to share my condolences to the Quinn family in regard to the passing of John Quinn. As I know many others have shared, the Quinns literally changed the trajectory of my life. As a Chipster alum (Summer of ’99 and 2000), I can honestly say that I would not have been the writer I am today without the program and the support I received from the Chips Quinn scholarship. It not only opened doors for me in journalism, but the friendships I made remain with me today. As a matter of fact, I ended up marrying a fellow Chipster (Ina Chang, class of 1999 and 2000)!

While I am no longer in newspapers, I remain a writer, working in communications at Levi Strauss & Co. where I oversee the corporate blog as an editor and writing contributor (among other responsibilities). The Chips Quinn program allowed me to foster my love of writing and build on my reporting skills that have translated into true skillsets that I’ve used throughout my career and to this day. When I was first brought into the Chipster family, I had no idea what to expect, but I immediately felt embraced and appreciated for everything I brought to the table. That support was invaluable to me and the Chipsters I’ve met through the program, and later in my newspaper career, are some of the most amazing people I’ve ever known and are literally some of my best friends today.

John and Lois not only managed to instill the spirit of their son in all of us, but they created a family that we will remain a part of, and there’s nothing stronger to me than that bond. I am forever grateful to the Quinns and what they’ve done for me, journalism – which I find SO incredibly important in these difficult political times – and for us minorities who may have otherwise been lost in the shuffle. We are forever in debt to this program for giving us a chance to raise our voices through the power of the written word and I know I will continue to share that for the rest of my life.

Thank you, John, and know that your legacy lives on in all of us.

Danielle Samaniego (Summer 1999 and 2000), senior manager, digital & social content, ‎Levi Strauss & Co.


The Chips Quinn Scholars program gave me the opportunity for my first journalism internship at Imperial Valley Press, which turned into a job and in one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I cannot thank John C. Quinn enough for creating this program that helped put minorities into the newsroom. I also was able to go to Nashville twice, learn from some amazing journalists and meet wonderful people I still know to this day. This is a sad day for journalism, the loss of a man who impacted so many people including me. RIP John C. Quinn, your beautiful legacy will always live in all of us!

Laura Gonzalez (Spring 2012)


To say John C. Quinn changed my life is a foregone conclusion.

As with a lot of things in my life, I believed I was the best student journalist at the campus paper at San Jose State University. Unfortunately, my behind-the-scenes leadership role as managing editor, executive editor, sports editor and production editor didn’t translate to having great clips to share with editors at internship fairs. It translated to blank stares.

The Chips Quinn Scholars program was a last-ditch effort to fulfill the requirement to complete an internship so I could graduate. The application process in one word? Easy.

CQS Program Director Karen Catone notified me of my placement at the San Jose Mercury News in 1999. All that stood between my internship and me was an orientation program held at the former site of the Newseum, in Arlington, Va.

There, I was lucky enough to meet John and his wife Loie, and they treated us Scholars as if we were long lost friends.

John and his industry colleagues gave us an inside glimpse of what we could achieve as journalists. At the forefront were the key ideas of hard work, dedication and improving our industry through truth, morality and the unspoken need to make the world a better place.

Not only did I get a foot in the door of what would become a successful, if not lasting, journalism career, but I also gained some much-needed confidence. The confidence was rooted in knowing that the people in the CQS program cared about minorities and understood the benefit of bringing together people of different races, religions and backgrounds.

I have had a successful year in my new career as an account operations specialist for a grocery product brokerage company. I talk to people from all walks of life and can convey to each one that he or she is the most important person to me at that moment. It was a skill that the Chips Quinn program helped me hone.

I also take pride in seeing success come to other SJSU students after their participation in a program that I, in some way, steered them to.

As newspapers tragically continue to lose ground in the battle to be economically viable, I somehow think John, had he been in his prime now, would be part of a small group of journalists who could reshape what today’s newspaper should be.

The 1,400 or so Chipsters out there probably share that sentiment.

Jon Perez (Summer 1999), account operations specialist, Fresh Source


Ryan Hiraki, John Quinn, Javacia Harris and Ed Bowser.

I owe John Quinn so much.

The Chips Quinn Scholars program – a fantastic initiative committed to diversifying newsrooms – led to my first out-of-state internship, my first full-time job in the industry and helped me develop dozens of lifelong friendships. It’s also how I met my wife, Javacia Harris.

Thank you for your vision and commitment to minority journalists, John. Your impact on our industry – and my life – will not be forgotten.

Edward Bowser (Summer 2001), content creator, Big Communications


I wanted to send my condolences to the family, relatives and friends of Mr. John C. Quinn. My thoughts and prayers are with them during this time.

I participated in the CQS program in 1999 when I interned at The Tennessean. It was the first time I left Hawaii to live in the continental United States, and the time I spent in Nashville was memorable. It’s been 18 years since my internship, and I always smile when I think about my time with the CQS Program! I wanted to thank Mr. Quinn for giving us Chipsters the opportunity to hone our journalism skills, meet a diverse group of people and experience living in a different part of the country. Mahalo Mr. Quinn for your help and generosity!

Julius Tigno (Summer 1999), graphic designer, Jump Associates


I was saddened to learn about the passing of Mr. Quinn, but deeply grateful to have known him. Being included in one the first classes of Chips Quinn Scholars gave me invaluable insight into the power of bringing humanity and gracious responsibility to our work as journalists, and Mr. Quinn epitomized this. He leaves behind a tremendous legacy in all Chips Quinn Scholars whose lives he touched, including mine.

Stacy Hawkins Adams (Summer 1992), author


John Quinn and Chloe Thompson Deiulis.

My heart broke when I heard the news … Mr. Quinn was one of the greatest men I’ve ever met. Will always cherish his handwritten letters, jokingly calling my (now-husband, then-boyfriend) “the other Jo(h)n” and his infectious wit. May he Rest In Peace.

Chloe Thompson Deiulis, (Summer 2008)


Last September, I made my final payment on my college loan. At that moment I was overcome by a sense of appreciation. Mostly, I was grateful for my mother – a single parent who cleaned houses to make ends meet, and who helped me pay my way through college. In short, she sacrificed much to make sure I was able to get a college education. Today, I am employed in a career that I love, allows me to have a life that I love, and one that I would never have gotten without that college degree.

In the same way, I would have never been in my current position without that first door being held open for me by the Chips Quinn Scholars program.

At the time I paid off my college loan, I posed a question to my friends and family: How do you thank the person who helped give you a future? Answers included: 1) Live life in a way that would make that person proud, and 2) At the very least, simply say, “Thank you.”

So, to the Quinn family, I’d like to share first that not one day goes by that I don’t try to live every aspect of my life by the very slogan I learned through the program: “Care, care, care – take it and show it.” Lastly, I’d like to say, simply, “Thank you.”

Jorge Barrientos (Summer 2006), director of marketing & public relations, Chain | Cohn | Stiles


From left: Mallary Tenore, John Quinn and Victoria Edwards.

One of my longtime mentors, John Quinn, passed away yesterday at the age of 91. As a founding editor of USA Today, John fought for inclusion and newsroom diversity for most of his career and helped countless young journalists through his Chips Quinn Scholars program. He favored typewriters over computers and often wrote me typewritten notes of encouragement throughout my career, dating back to my time as a student at Providence College, our shared alma mater. I will miss him…

Mallary Tenore, assistant director, Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas





Mr. Quinn has a great heart and I really benefited from his great efforts in helping minority journalism students. I feel very lucky to have been included in the Chips Quinn program when I was just getting started in journalism in the U.S., especially as someone who is not a native speaker of English. I couldn’t have asked for more loving program organizers than Karen and Michelle, and I learned a great deal from not only the training sessions but also writing coach Mary Ann during my internship and well into my first full-time job.

Even though I am now back in China and left journalism after nine years studying and working in journalism in the U.S., I still use the skills I learned in journalism every day. I’m sure Mr. Quinn’s efforts live on with many other Chipsters as well, wherever they are and whatever they do.

Xiao Zhang (Fall 2001)

One thought on “Reflections: Remembering John C. Quinn

  1. We began with just six scholars, almost immediately after the Quinn family’s loss. CEO Charles Overby never wanted to let a good idea languish. I think he also saw that the program could help ease their grief. As I recall, the decision to focus the memorial program on diversity was approved without pause. (As a publisher in Poughkeepsie Chips had faced down some challenges with diversity in coverage and hiring.) The second class had 12 “Chipsters,” as they were fondly dubbed by Midge, an early program aide. I was startled when John Quinn took seriously my joking suggestion of doubling the class every year, but he made it happen. That growth rate continued for years if not to date. I liked being able to “hug the whole first class at once,” and even more working among Big-Idea action leaders. The program is a tremendous legacy for John Quinn and tribute to the leaders who built it. Alice Bonner, Former Education Director, TFF

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