Celebrating Kathy Craghead: Her life, career and the impact she made on yearbook
Written by Sarah Scott
Updated by Walsworth Yearbooks
Kathy Craghead was a respected, influential and loved member of the scholastic journalism community. Her death in May is still being felt – from her absence at yearbook conventions, to her ability to review yearbook copy with a fine-tooth comb. As a tribute to her, longtime friend Jim Jordan interviewed 15 of Kathy’s many close friends. You can hear what they have to say on this special episode of the Yearbook Chat with Jim podcast.
Long-time yearbook adviser Kathy Craghead passed away Wednesday, May 23, 2018. She spent 24 years as the yearbook adviser at Mexico High School in Mexico, Missouri, before retiring in 2007. In 2003, she was named the H.L. Hall National Adviser of the Year by JEA.
After retiring, she spent time as a yearbook instructor and served as a judge for yearbook organizations.
Kathy was well known throughout the yearbook world. She is remembered for her dry wit, high standards and emphasis on writing and journalism.
The impact she made is apparent from the many people, from all over the country, wanting to share their memories. Anyone who knew Kathy wanted to talk about her.
She made a lasting impression and will be missed by many. We reached out to some of Kathy’s closest yearbook friends and asked them to reflect on her life and the many ways she influenced the yearbook world.
Close friend and fellow yearbook adviser Nancy Hastings, MJE advised Paragon yearbook at Munster High School in Munster, Indiana, for 38 years. She met Kathy at a journalism workshop in the early 1980s, where Kathy had been brought in as a writing instructor.
“That’s always been Kathy’s forte. She was one of the absolute best writing teachers. Her passion was for quality reporting. She really believed that yearbook was so much more than a pretty design. You had to have the reporting and the writing, whether it was in-depth captions, detailed alternative copies that had meat to them, or wonderful narratives. She really loved teaching writing.”
Hastings also noticed how Kathy was adept at taking new yearbook advisers under her wing to help them grow.
“Young advisers who needed to understand how to survive, how to do the job,” said Nancy.
Nancy was one of many people to comment on Kathy’s humor and strong personality.
“Kathy was a hard one to get to know because she had a very dry wit, but she had the kindest heart.”
Kathy made a lasting impression on Walsworth President Don Walsworth.
“Early in my Walsworth career, I had the privilege of working with Kathy. In our first few meetings, it was clear she was less concerned with my last name and more concerned with how I could help her and the staff produce a great yearbook. Her commitment was to her students, school and community, and she worked hard to make sure Mexico High School had an exceptional reputation. Kathy taught me that not all customers are the same and I need to pay attention to what’s important to each one. Her influence has certainly helped me be more successful in my job.”
Walsworth Journalism Specialist Mike Taylor, CJE, knew her long before he came to Walsworth.
“Everybody in the yearbook industry loved her. She’s very dry and sarcastic, but the underlying tone of her sarcasm is love.”
He talked about how she was friendly and really cared about the kids, but always found a way to have fun.
“You always knew where you stood with her, but you always stood in a good spot with her. She was always your friend.”
He called her an amazing writing teacher.
“For a long time, yearbook storytelling was looked down upon because it was trite and it wasn’t really good feature stories. Kathy Craghead is one of the people who really helped elevate the storytelling aspect of the yearbook feature. She told students’ lives, she covered the year, she made sure her staff understood that they were writing something important, not just something to fill a box. She is one of the pioneers that brought yearbook journalism to the forefront and made it journalism. When you did something for Kathy Craghead, you were doing real journalism.”
Jim Jordan, who taught yearbook for 35 years at Del Campo High School in Fair Oaks, California, wrote down his thoughts on Kathy’s life.
“I adored Kathy Craghead.
We first met in the late ‘80s at the Ball State workshops and then we worked together at many more workshops throughout the ‘90s.
Kathy was one of the pioneers in promoting the power of great writing in yearbooks. She loved a great theme and beautiful design, but she believed the heart of any great yearbook, of any publication, is its writing. She preached this truth wherever she went and wherever she taught.
We all loved Kathy’s great sense of humor and dry wit. She was a truth teller, a woman of flawless integrity. If something wasn’t right you knew Kathy was going to tell you; but that look she would give you — that laugh and wry smile — made you realize what she was telling you was right.
At conventions, I couldn’t wait to see her and Nancy Hastings for the first time. I’d yell ‘Baby!’ as loudly as I could when I saw her. She would reply ‘Darlin’’ and then I’d give her a huge hug. I can’t imagine that I won’t be able to do that ever again.
Kathy Craghead. You made a difference. You will be missed.”
Walsworth yearbook representative Missy Green first met Kathy more than 35 years ago.
“It was amazing what I learned for my career and what I’ve carried through. She taught me how to tell kids when their yearbook could be better. She taught me that you have nothing better to do than spend time helping a student learn to do it right and get the most out of it. It’s OK to push them.”
Green remembered Kathy’s skill at being an instructor, especially when it comes to writing.
“Every time I saw her with kids, she had this sarcastic wit that succeeded with them beautifully. It’s so hard to find that niche with students, but if you find it, you can get them to do anything.”
H.L. Hall is a giant in the industry. The H.L. Hall National Adviser of the Year recognition – which was awarded to Kathy in 2003 – was named after him. He served as the publications manager at Kirkwood High School in Kirkwood, Missouri, from 1973 to 1999.
“She loved teaching and she especially loved words. She was a great writing teacher for advisers as well as students. Besides teaching at countless workshops, she also evaluated thousands of yearbooks. She added a touch of humor to anything she did. At times, she tried not to laugh. When I tried to get her to, she always yelled, ‘stop it.’ Before you knew it, we were both laughing uncontrollably. She made advisers and students realize that the hard work it took to produce a great publication could also be fun! Her wit made my day more than once.”
Walsworth yearbook representative John Kelley mused on how Kathy touched his life, in more than just yearbook.
“What an incredible lady. She was my very first mentor. There is no way I would have made it 29 years as a yearbook rep without her initial inspiration. She took me under her wing when I was young man trying to find my way in an industry to which I was completely new, and showed me how cool yearbooks could be and how influential scholastic journalism was to all of our lives. I didn’t know it at the time, but I even married one of her former editors. She never let me forget that one. Over the years, I always looked forward to our chats at conventions and workshops. I will miss those chats.”
Dow Tate is the yearbook adviser at Shawnee Mission East, in Prairie Village, Kansas. He is in year 30 of advising. He remembered how her humor would add to workshops he attended.
“She was so funny. She wouldn’t hold back and had a sharp tongue, but was so welcoming. She made the early days of workshop life fun and really drew me into the profession.”
She’d use that sharp wit to put people at ease and talk them through yearbook.
“Any time someone’s funny and engaging, people would connect to her really easily.”
Becky Tate has been the yearbook adviser at Shawnee Mission North in Overland Park, Kansas, for 28 years. She discussed Kathy’s influence on her career as an adviser.
“She was one of those people who would teach you to always take the high ground, to make good choices. She would reinforce all of that. I think that will be the way I remember Kathy.”
Becky envied Kathy’s ability to teach writing but looked forward to the two times a year she saw Kathy at yearbook conferences. Kathy would greet her with a hug and ask about her life, remembering little details.
“She would always have a wonderful smile on her face, and that smile was always something you look forward to.”
Thank you for sharing your memories
Kathy’s death is a great loss for the yearbook community. She was loved for her personality and respected for her skill. You are invited to share your reflections in Comments below.
Our hearts are with Kathy’s close friends and family.
Thank you to everyone who shared their memories.