“If You Ask, I Will Go” | Dolores Eyler Enters COM Hall of Fame
“Everyone has a story to tell,” Dolores Eyler (B.A., 1971) muses, when asked what students should know when they decide to become communicators. And during Eyler’s decades and country-spanning journalism career, she has worked tirelessly to tell hundreds of them.
In recognition of Eyler’s dedication to community journalism, the Communication Department will induct her into the 2017 class of its prestigious Hall of Fame.
Eyler has an extensive background in feature reporting, including working on the Seattle Post Intelligencer, the Santa Monica Evening Outlook, The Oregon Journal, and the Rocky Mountain News. She also helped start a community newspaper in Winnetka, Illinois, and was the founding editor/publisher of The Rye Record in Rye, New York. Currently, she is a business trainer via role-playing for Performance Plus in the New York City metropolitan area. She also taught in the public schools in Rye, New York.
As a result of having moved so often due to family business opportunities, Eyler explains, she has discovered “that every single person, in every single place, has a story to tell.”
She also added that having to frequently change locations is a personal obstacle that has dogged her journalism career, since the seventh grade. “I was on the staff of the school paper and became the youngest member of Quill and Scroll [a celebrated honor society for student reporters] in the country,” she said. “Named editor for the following year, I had to decline, as my family moved due to my father’s job as an Army officer. That was just the first of many times I had to give up a journalism job and move. Later, it was because of my first husband’s (also a UW grad) school and career. Fortunately, I was always able to find another job in the field, and never gave up my love of journalism and writing.”
She encourages any aspiring journalist to not be deterred by challenges, insisting that she always was able to use her contacts and determination to land behind a news desk. “Newspaper editors are usually open to new writers who are willing to take on any beat,” she declares, “get in there and say you will do it, and do it with a positive attitude!”
Reflecting on her time at the University of Washington, she says one of her most important lessons came from a group of students from another discipline. “[They] came in to conduct an unknown experiment on us, trying to get us to change our opinion on a major issue,” she remembers. While most of the students reversed their original position, Eyler remained unswayed. “After we were told it had been a ruse, I was very glad I had stuck to my original opinion,” she says, “and that lesson stayed with me. Believe in what you know to be right and true.”
Eyler also says that the Department played a large role in help launching her professional career. During her sophomore year, her professor, a Seattle Times editor, was asked by another an editor at the Seattle Post Intelligencer, to recommend a student hire. The professor selected Eyler.
“I laughingly say I should have engraved on my forehead, ‘If You Ask, I Will Go,’ because I am usually up for anything,” Eyler muses. “My tombstone should probably read, ‘She Was Curious.’ To be a journalist is a joy, because you can go almost everywhere and ask almost anything, and it is acceptable.”
She adds, however, that in addition to the thrills of chasing a story, aspiring journalists should expect to work hard. “They should be willing to do almost any job, if they can just get their feet in the door,” she says of students. “No matter their education or experience, [they should] be willing to start at the bottom, if necessary, if it is the place they really want to be.”
In addition to her work as a journalist, Eyler has been an active volunteer (and formed book clubs) wherever she has called home, including Santa Monica, Portland, Denver, the Chicago area, and, currently, New York.
“Joining community organizations was a wonderful way to meet good, giving people after each move. But of course, it is more than that,” she ruminates. “I have often wondered what makes for a good life… is it being happy? Successful? Experiencing new things? All of those matter. But giving of oneself to others is the key to all. Selfishly, it just feels good.”
Eyler currently volunteers with the New York State Prison System. Some of her past and present boards include Oregon National Public Radio, the Denver Art Museum Auxiliary, the League of Women Voters, the Rye YMCA, the Posse Foundation, Operation Respect, Rye Arts Center, the Rye Library Auxiliary, and has served has a four-time elder for her Presbyterian church.
She recounts a time with the Posse Foundation, an organization that trains inner city, top student high school leaders in groups, or “posses,” and sends them on together to good colleges, as particularly enlightening. “I met with a group of them while visiting my own son at Vanderbilt,” Eyler recalls. “We gathered in a dean’s office, and after a nice visit, I asked them to coffee. They ALL declined. When I clarified that I was treating them, they accepted. That was an incredible eye-opener for me… that we can give people a lot, but sometimes it is not enough for them to live a normal life, and even afford a cup of coffee.” She says the experience inspired her to establish ongoing funds for Posse students, as well as communication students at the University of Washington.
Having worked for and with a variety of organizations throughout her career, Eyler says she feels the most successful when she has learned, experienced, or seen something new.
“At this point in my life, I only write when I feel like it, and it is always feature stories of local people in Rye,” she explains. “But when I do, I am again reminded – everyone has a story to tell.”