The Spartan community lost a trio of giants from the S’News family in the second half of 2019, with the deaths of State News Hall of Famers George Bullard, 74, on Aug. 9 and John Borger, 68, on Dec. 16, and retired board member Lou Hekhuis, 90, on Aug. 25.
Bullard came to The State News in 1968, at the height of the turbulence of the Sixties, and was editor-in-chief in 1970-71 as the paper gained its independence from the university. He would spend 35 years as a reporter and editor at The Detroit News, rising to the rank of assistant managing editor, according to the S'News centennial book “One Hundred Years Captured in The State News.”
“At the News, he once wrote a story about a guy holding a bunch of folks hostage in a bar in Wyandotte. George ended up in the bar, taking the guy’s gun away and escorting him out of the bar. Those would never happen these days, of course, but he was tight with the cops and they trusted him,” according to the book.
“He was best known for the way he combined a passion (for) journalistic excellence, dry humor and a grounded perspective, often noting the most popular events of the day could be insignificant ‘in the greater cosmic scene’ even as (he) keenly appreciated the small details that could humanize broad stories,” the book said.
Bullard was inducted into the State News Hall of Fame in 2009. He is survived by Sue Burzynski Bullard, a Hall of Famer as well.
Borger, a media lawyer, retained “the heart and soul of a State News reporter who was tear-gassed in 1970 while covering an antiwar protest in Washington. At the paper, he served as student government reporter, administration reporter, campus editor and editor-in-chief,” according to “One Hundred Years.”
After graduating from law school in 1976, he argued scores of media cases at the state and federal levels, many for Minnesota’s largest newspaper, the Star Tribune in Minneapolis. He defeated two libel suits by subjects of a Star Tribune investigative series, whose lawyer bad boasted that he would make the paper “eat that Pulitzer (Prize).” Borger twice represented the newspaper before the U.S. Supreme Court, according to the book.
One particularly gratifying victory came in 2004, when the Minnesota Supreme Court required the University of Minnesota to conduct the final stages of its presidential search in public, the book said. Borger, who practiced law at Faerge & Benson LLP, was inducted into the State News Hall of Fame in 2007.
Hekhuis, known as “Louie,” was a long-time former member of the State News Board of Directors. The MSU alum served more than 25 years as the university’s associate dean of students from the late 1960s to the 1980s and then helped guide many doctoral students through their PhD programs as a professor of higher education administration, according to his obituary in the Lansing State Journal. In 2005, Hekhuis received the Crystal Apple award in honor of his teaching prowess.
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