Jim Amoss '65 Is Jesuit's 2006 Alumnus of the Year
Jim Amoss of the Class of 1965, pictured with members of his family,
was recently honored as Jesuit High School’s
2006 Alumnus of the Year at Homecoming Mass on Oct. 22.
Jim Amoss, who as editor of The Times-Picayune guided the newspaper’s Pulitzer Prize winning coverage of Hurricane Katrina, has been named Jesuit High School’s 2006 Alumnus of the Year.
Amoss, who graduated from Jesuit in 1965, will be recognized at Jesuit’s annual Homecoming Mass on Sunday, October 22 at 10 a.m. in the Chapel of the North American Martyrs. A jazz brunch and reception will follow in the Student Commons.
“Jim’s leadership role as editor during the extraordinary and difficult times following Katrina was of immense public service to our entire community,” said Fr. Anthony McGinn, S.J., president of Jesuit High School. “Under Jim’s capable leadership, The Times-Picayune was a dynamic, informative, and indispensable communications tool, not only for the citizens of the New Orleans metropolitan region, but also the entire world. Jesuit is proud to recognize Jim with this honor.”
Amoss is the 49th recipient of this award, which is given annually to an outstanding alumnus who is recognized for his achievements and distinguished service, either to Jesuit or the community-at-large, and in many instances, both.
Amoss happens to be the first Alumnus of the Year who did not attend Jesuit for the typical four or five years. He became a Blue Jay in his junior year when his family returned to New Orleans after living abroad for many years. Amoss quickly made his mark as a Blue Jay, participating in several extracurricular activities. He was the treasurer of the Sodality, chairman of the Desire Street Project, a member of the Glee Club, a nationally ranked debator, and, of course, a staff writer for the student publication The Blue Jay.
In a feature story about Amoss in one of its 1965 editions, The Blue Jay noted, “A four year high school career is short enough, and Jim and Jesuit have been together only two; yet in those two years, they’ve been a team to remember.”
Following his graduation from Jesuit in 1965, Amoss received a bachelor of arts degree magna cum laude from Yale University in 1969 and was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University.
Amoss’s newspaper career began in 1974 as a reporter for The States-Item, the city’s afternoon newspaper. As an award-winning investigative reporter, Amoss uncovered numerous high-profile scandals in government, business, and politics. When the paper merged in 1980 with its morning rival, The Times-Picayune, Amoss continued with his investigative reporting before taking a brief stint as bureau chief in St. Bernard Parish. Amoss returned to the paper’s Howard Avenue headquarters as city editor in 1982. He was named metro editor in 1983 and appointed associate editor in 1988.
Amoss was named to the paper’s top editorial position in 1990, becoming one of its youngest editors in what has been a long and rich history dating back to the Picayune’s founding in 1837.
Jim Amoss ’65
As editor, Amoss is responsible for the news operation and supervises a large staff of reporters, editors, and photographers. Amoss has been named “Editor of the Year” on two occasions, in 1997 by the National Press Foundation and, most recently, this year by Editor & Publisher magazine.
During his tenure as editor, The Times-Picayune has won four Pulitzer Prizes, including two this year for the newspaper’s extensive coverage of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Under Amoss’s leadership, The Times-Picayune became a vital tool of communication for the more than one million area residents who had evacuated, as well as for readers throughout the world. The paper’s affiliated website, NOLA.com, was continuously updated, along with its online blogs that kept exiled New Orleanians connected and citizens of the world informed.
When the Pulitzer Prize board announced that The Times-Picayune was the 2005 winner in the category of Public Service, it cited the paper’s “heroic, multi-faceted coverage of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath,” adding that the staff made “exceptional use of the newspaper’s resources to serve an inundated city even after evacuation of the newspaper plant.” Amoss and his staff accomplished all of this even while they themselves suffered and confronted grave danger.
Jim is married to Nancy Monroe and they have two children, a son, Adam, and a daughter, Sophia. They live in New Orleans.
Jim Amoss Addresses Blue Jays at 2006 Homecoming Mass
Jim Amoss of the Class of 1965 was honored as Jesuit High School’s 2006 Alumnus of the Year
at Homecoming Mass on Sunday, Oct. 22, 2006. Fr. McGinn presented Amoss with an engraved plaque named in honor of the late U.S. Congressman F. Edward Hebert, who graduated
from Jesuit in 1920. Amoss is the 49th recipient of the award, which is presented annually
to an outstanding alumnus who best represents Jesuit’s core beliefs and philosophy.
After receiving the award, Jim Amoss gave the following address:
Father McGinn, fellow Blue Jays, and families:
A special greeting to the Classes of 1956 and 1981 on their anniversaries.
I’m deeply honored by this award. And I’m honored and blessed with an extraordinary family,
several of whom are here today: My parents, Berthe and Jimmy Amoss, who taught my brothers
and me by example what it means to be a loving parent and spouse (Though they’re both Newman alums, they nudged me toward Jesuit, sensing it was the right fit, as it had been for my grandfather, Sumter Marks of the Class of 1909); my wife Nancy, whom I love and who is my best friend and
who puts up with me; my daughter Sophie, who is an inspired, incandescent presence in our lives;
our wonderful son Adam who is in Philadelphia, studying so hard he can’t be here; my beloved brother Bob and his wife Lisa and their son, my nephew, David, and his girlfriend, Missy.
I’d like also to mention two Jesuit alums who are my colleagues at The Times-Picayune.
Bruce Nolan, my comrade from the class of 1965, and Walt Philbin of the class of 1962, were both heroes in the storm. They should be standing up here with me.
In his Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius devotes considerable space to lessons in humility.
It so happens that I learned my first great lesson in humility in this very chapel. Humility and
its first cousin, humiliation. It happened 41 years ago, at the end of the first semester of my senior year at Jesuit. I had been accepted at Yale University for the following fall. My grades were good.
I was confident, too confident. Heading into graduation, I was on cruise control. But there was this one course giving me trouble. American History. The teacher, an assistant football coach,
conducted class by reading the textbook out loud, chapter by chapter, in a voice devoid of any inflection: “The Missouri Compromise was an agreement in 1820…” I tuned out. Not once did I crack the textbook. I didn’t care about the Missouri Compromise. I was just glad they worked it out.
On the day of the final semester exam in American History, I gazed down at the purple mimeographed pages of questions. At that moment, it dawned on me that I was clueless, doomed,
a dead man. And so I walked out of the classroom, away from the exam, down the hallways and
into this chapel. I sat down there, about where Ardley Hanemann is sitting. It would be
disingenuous to say that I prayed. No, I just sat there, scared, pathetic. I was hiding from the exam. Eventually I sensed a presence hovering over me. It cast a long shadow. No, it was not the Holy Ghost. It was Father Pearce, the prefect of discipline. Donald Pearce was a tall, dark, fearsome
man. He was famous for gliding soundlessly through the building. You never knew when he might suddenly appear, catching you in flagrante delicto. Father Pearce conveyed outrage by speaking
in a controlled, quiet voice, lingering over each syllable. Here in the sanctuary he towered over me, stared at me with a look that was equal parts pity and contempt. And then the voice that made me gulp: “What do you think you are doing here?”
I don’t remember whatever I stammered in reply. Father Pearce marched me back to the
classroom. I heard snickers from classmates as I reentered. I sat down and did my best. That
would be a D. A few weeks later, a letter arrived from the Admissions office of Yale. They had received my first semester grades: “We remind you that your admission is contingent on
maintaining a grade average consistent with our academic standards.”
And so I started cracking the American History textbook, braved the boredom of those droning lectures and pulled up my grade enough to satisfy the admissions office. More importantly, my humiliation taught me that you can’t hide from responsibility, you can’t walk away from being accountable.
This building may look like just another brick fortress of a schoolhouse, but for us who were
formed here, it pinpoints the geography of our growing up. I sat in a pew in the back of this
chapel on Nov. 22, 1963, and felt the enormity of the day as I prayed with my classmates for
the soul of John Kennedy. I submitted my first piece of copy to be published in a closet of an
office on the third floor, where the formidable Blue Jay editors sat. I know exactly in which classroom and at which desk I sat when I first grasped the actual beauty of classical Greek,
taught by Phil Postell. (Father Postell is here today as a member of the Class of 1956.) And
I know where I was standing in the schoolyard when the debate coach I had never met walked
up to me and said, “Why don’t you try out for our team?” I did and shed much of my timidity.
The gift of this school cannot be repaid – though they’re not shy about asking. We owe much
of our material success to the investment that was made in us when we walked these corridors.
If we speak and write English reasonably well, chances are that’s because some Jesuit drilled
us in the use of the subjunctive and the distinction between “who” and “whom” in relative
clauses. Our conscience, our spiritual life, our love for one another, our call to serve a wider community than we could imagine – all these are gifts from this school. No mere curriculum
can instill these values. They were imparted to us by teachers who cared about us as human
and spiritual beings, as children of God.
We are called on now to serve a community in need. Whether we lost our home or not, we were
all deeply afflicted by what happened last year to our beloved hometown. But among the walking wounded, the sons of Jesuit have a special strength and a special duty to heal, to bridge the
divisions of this place, and to love this great city back to life.
Jim Amoss with Fr. McGinn after the 2006 Homecoming Mass
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