Back to News

Eight inducted into Virginia Communications Hall of Fame

Mar 25, 2020

Posted in: News

By University Public Affairs and Robertson School Communication Team

Top row, left to right: Barbara Ciara, Doug Coleburn, Brian Ellis and Bill Eure. Bottom row, left to right: Kym Grinnage, Cabell Harris, Thomas P. Kapsidelis and Donald Lee.

Eight distinguished media professionals are the latest inductees into the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame, which recognizes communications professionals with exceptional careers in advertising, journalism, public relations, new media and other media fields. They have made outstanding long-term contributions in the field of communications and were either born in Virginia or became distinctively identified with the state.

"We are excited to induct these eight accomplished professionals into the Hall of Fame," said Dr. Marcus Messner, interim director of the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture in the College of Humanities and Sciences at Virginia Commonwealth University. The Robertson School has hosted the Hall of Fame since its inception in 1986 and has inducted 180 communications professionals since then. The Hall of Fame benefits a scholarship fund for Robertson School students. 

This year's awards ceremony, which had been planned for March 26 at the Altria Theater in Richmond, was canceled two weeks ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic. VCU's Monroe Park campus has been closed since the beginning of this week and events have been canceled. 

"Due to the cancelation, we are now considering to organize a smaller, personal event to honor the 2020 inductees some time in the fall," said Messner. "We will make sure that we will honor their tremendous contributions to our profession."

This year’s inductees are:

Barbara Ciara, anchor and managing editor of WTKR-TV News 3 in Hampton Roads, is an Emmy award-winning broadcast journalist with more than 25 years of experience covering news stories in locations such as Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Haiti and Mexico. Her stateside coverage includes political campaigns, investigative reporting and interviews with luminaries such as Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush. Ciara earned an undergraduate degree Summa Cum Laude from Hampton University in Virginia. In 1978, she became the youngest female and first African American to hold the position of news director at a commercial television station in the Southwest. She also broke new ground in February 1997 by becoming the managing editor of Local News on Cable, or LNC, a first-of-its-kind partnership among commercial television, cable and The Virginian-Pilot newspaper.

Doug Coleburn is retired editor of the Blackstone Courier-Record, where he has served since 1948. For more than 70 years, he has been a champion of open government and transparency — both as a journalist and as a local elected official for 53 years. He has published several books and won numerous awards from the Virginia Press Association. For most of his life, he has written columns, editorials and stories and taken compelling photographs that have informed and entertained generations of Southside Virginians.

Brian Ellis, executive vice president at Padilla, currently leads its crisis and issues management practice. He began his career in the communications business at 19 as a late-night DJ at the University of Florida as well as a reporter/anchor at the school’s PBS station WRUF. Ellis spent most of the next decade reporting and anchoring the news for TV stations in Augusta, Georgia, Richmond, Virginia, and Tampa, Florida. He moved to public relations 29 years ago, managing national campaigns and helping clients navigate major crisis issues. He was a founding member of Carter Ryley Thomas, which grew to be the largest PR agency in Virginia.

Bill Eure, who passed away in January 2019, was a native of Portsmouth, Virginia, who began his broadcasting career in the sales department of WAVY-AM/TV in Hampton Roads. He became general manager of WRAP-AM in Norfolk in 1960, sales manager at WMAL-TV in Washington in 1965, and entered broadcast ownership in 1970 with the purchase of WSSV-AM and WPLZ-FM in Petersburg. Eure began the first African American programmed FM station in the Richmond market, Magic 99, in 1981. Eure went on to own WKEZ-FM in Yorktown and WINA-AM, WWWV-FM and WQMZ-FM in Charlottesville with his sons. In addition to serving as the Virginia Association of Broadcasters president in 1975, Eure also was past president of the Virginia Associated Press Broadcasters, a member of the National Association of Broadcasters Medium Market Committee and a member of its board of directors. He was recognized by the Virginia Association of Broadcasters with its C.T. Lucy Distinguished Service Award.

Kym Grinnage has been vice president and general manager of WWBT-TV NBC12 since 2011. He also assumed responsibility of WUPV-TV CW Richmond in 2019. Grinnage joined the station in 1990 as an account executive followed by appointments as national sales manager, local sales manager and general sales manager. Before coming to Richmond from New York, he was a sales account executive with CBS television. Prior to that, Grinnage held positions in sales and affiliate relations with NBC. He is the recipient of three Associated Press awards for Best Editorial and a Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities’ 2018 Humanitarian Award. He lives in Chesterfield County with his wife, Kyle.

Cabell Harris is founder of WORK Inc., a creative branding agency in Richmond, Virginia. His early career includes work with companies in New York, Boston and Los Angeles. In addition to managing WORK, creating ad campaigns, corporate identities, packaging products, publishing books, building apps and taking his own brands and products to market, Cabell was a professor for over 10 years at the VCU BrandCenter. Cabell has been recognized in every major industry award show including: Cannes Lions, the Clio Awards, The One Show, New York Addys, ADC Annual Awards, Graphis, Athena Advertising Awards, the International ANDY Awards, British Design & Art Direction, Effie Awards, Communication Arts and over 10 Best of Shows for the Richmond Addys. Various publications have declared him one of the top creatives in the country.

Thomas P. Kapsidelis is a veteran Virginia journalist and author of “After Virginia Tech: Guns, Safety, and Healing in the Era of Mass Shootings,” published in 2019 by the University of Virginia Press. He was an editor for 28 years at the Richmond Times-Dispatch before accepting a fellowship in 2016 at Virginia Humanities to complete his book. A native of Petersburg, Kapsidelis previously was the Richmond bureau manager for United Press International and a reporter with The State newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina. Kapsidelis graduated from the University of Maryland in 1977 with a B.S in journalism and from Goucher College in 2014 with an M.F.A. in creative nonfiction. He is a visiting assistant professor of journalism at the University of Richmond for the current academic year and formerly taught as an adjunct instructor at VCU’s Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture.

Donald Lee is a cameraman and journalist for CBS News’ “60 Minutes” based in Washington. His career began at VCU, where he enrolled in the newly formed broadcast news curriculum. The academic community included local radio and TV stations, and at WWBT-TV in Richmond, he joined a group of cameramen and women who would become lifelong friends and family members. Over the next five decades working for CBS News in Washington and for the past 10 years at “60 Minutes,” he has covered conflict, politics, natural disasters and everyday life while raising a family with his wife, Barbara, also a VCU alum. Awards include three Emmys, two duPont-Columbia Awards and an Edward R. Murrow Award.

"Congratulations to the inductees and their families," said Messner. "We hope to be able to celebrate their inductions very soon."

"I would like to thank all of the members of our Hall of Fame Committee, especially the co-chairs Frazier Armstrong and Jeff Wilson, and our team in the College of Humanities and Sciences for their dedicated work with the event," Messner added.  

A previous version of this story was published by VCU News.