Lissa Walls Vahldiek honored
Lissa Walls Vahldiek, chief operating officer and vice president
Southern Newspapers, Inc., Houston, Texas
In presenting the award to her, David Paxton, president and CEO of Paxton Media Group, Paducah, Ky., and president of SNPA, spoke of the high standards set by Vahldiek, saying her "dedication to newspapers was borne of family ties and has been cemented for nearly 30 years winning the respect and friendship of colleagues, employees and even rivals in the industry."
Like previous Mayborn Award winners, Vahldiek grew up in the newspaper industry, and followed in the footsteps of a father, who was a giant in both the newspaper industry and in SNPA.
The late Benjamin Carmage Walls believed newspapers had the power to better their communities through strong and positive editorial page leadership. "We believe in putting more back into the communities we serve than the company takes out," he once said of his newspaper philosophy.
Paxton said Vahldiek has maintained the values her father set for each of his company's publications while ably adapting them in the ever-changing media landscape we find ourselves navigating today.
Paxton said, "You can hear the echo of her father's philosophy as she says, 'Our company's focus is now - and has always been - on providing the best newspaper each community can support and giving publishers a high degree of control over their newspapers. We work to stay on the leading edge of trends in our industry, but local news and advertising, local commentary and local leadership are our core products and always will be.'"
As much as she has carried forth her father's legacy, Vahldiek has blazed her own trail in the industry. She has been vice chairman of The Associated Press Board of Directors, was president of the Texas Daily Newspaper Association and chairman of the board of trustees of Trinity University.
She was just the third woman to serve as president of SNPA, and she has been a director, a trustee and a committee chair for SNPA. She is also a former chairman of the SNPA Foundation and played a key role in its successful effort to raise an endowment to permanently fund the Traveling Campus program.
She has excelled in every endeavor she has undertaken, a testament to both her abilities as a leader and her dedication to her role as chief operating officer of Southern Newspapers Inc. These qualities have always been evident to her peers.