Allen Loibner-Waitkus, MJE  ASPA Executive Director

Kristy Cates, Executive Director, 2018

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The History of the Arkansas Scholastic Press Association and Arkansas Journalism Advisers Association


The Arkansas High School Press Association (AHSPA) was founded in 1929 by the late W.J. Lemke of the University of Arkansas. Its purpose was to improve school publications in Arkansas, to increase their prestige, to promote the field of journalism and to recognize outstanding achievement.

Fourteen high schools attended the first AHSPA convention at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville April 19-20, 1929. Lemke, the first executive secretary, immediately began a series of contests each spring, held a yearly convention, published a monthly bulletin and also conducted a fall press meeting. Although yearbooks were included in AHSPA at the time, heavy emphasis was placed on the more prevalent newspapers during the conventions, with sessions offered in news, sports, feature, headline and column writing.
AHSPA conventions were discontinued during World War II but were revived in 1946, with meetings at Little Rock Central High School. With the exception of 1950 and 1951, when no conventions were held, AHSPA has met every year since.


Regional high school press meetings were organized in 1947, and the first journalism section meeting was held during the Arkansas Education Association convention in Little Rock Nov. 8, 1935.

After Lemke’s retirement as executive secretary on the 25th anniversary of AHSPA in 1954, five teachers formed an executive board to continue the business of the association until the new executive secretary, Roberta Clay of Arkansas State Teachers College at Conway (now the University of Central Arkansas), was appointed later the same year. She retired in 1959, and Dr. David Bergin of the University of Arkansas took her place. One year later Dr. Jess Covington, also of the University of Arkansas, became executive secretary, a post he held until 1969 when the title of “executive secretary” was changed to “executive director” and Dr. William D. Downs Jr. of Ouachita Baptist University was appointed to the position until 1996. Gary Lundgren of the University of Arkansas served one year in 1997. Beth Shull served from 1998 until 2005. In the summer of 2005, Allen Loibner-Waitkus of The University of Arkansas–Pulaski Technical College became executive director, a position he holds to this day.

The Arkansas High School Press Association officially changed its name to the Arkansas Scholastic Press Association in 1998.
The present ASPA board consists of five Arkansas Journalism Advisers Association officers, five officer-school advisers, four regional directors, one adviser from each media area and the executive director.

Although conventions were traditionally held either at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville or at Little Rock Central High School, AHSPA officers moved the meeting to the Marion Hotel in Little Rock in 1969. AHSPA also met at the Royal Vista and the Arlington hotels in Hot Springs and the Camelot Inn in Little Rock. Beginning in 1979, the convention was held at the Excelsior Hotel (later the Peabody Hotel) and the Statehouse Convention Center. In 2006 the convention began rotating to different convention centers and hotels around the state, including Fort Smith, Hot Springs, Little Rock and Rogers.

As of July 2018, ASPA moved to Arkansas State University in Jonesboro with Kristy Cates who followed Loibner-Waitkus as executive director.