Huntington, Ind.— The Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU) is currently celebrating Christian Higher Education Month. Of the nominees submitted by 107 member institutions, the CCCU chose 31 alumni to honor this year – one for each day in October. One such alum is Jennifer Bebee Boen, a 1971 Huntington College graduate. She will be featured on the CCCU web site on Friday, October 24, 2003, at www.cccu.org/chem.
Nominees were chosen in five fields of expertise: government and law, arts and entertainment, community and society, science and technology, and business. This year’s honorees include a congressman, a Major League Baseball umpire, a grief recovery counselor, Christianity Today’s “Most Influential Pastor,” and more. Past recipients include Billy Graham, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Dennis Hastert, recording artists Jars of Clay, Todd and Lisa Beamer, and Tony Campolo.
The following profile of Jennifer Boen will be featured on the CCCU web site.
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When Monday morning rolls around for Jennifer Boen, she goes to work looking forward to talking to people. It’s not her way of avoiding the duties of her job – it is her job. Boen is a journalist for Ft. Wayne, Ind.’s The News-Sentinel, and interviewing the people God brings into her life each day, as she puts it, is the best part of her job.
“One day is never the same as the previous day,” she said. “I’ve had two separate stories at two indigent clinics, and even though they both serve a similar [low-income] population, they are different.” She interviewed one patient, for instance, who had a well-paying job until she was laid off. The woman made her COBRA payments as long as she could to keep her health insurance. But once that ran out, she found herself at this “free clinic” to get basic medical care. Boen said, “My desire is to portray individuals in such a way so readers say, ‘This could be me,’ or ‘I do understand where this person is coming from.’”
Boen didn’t plan to major in journalism at Huntington College; instead, she studied what interested her most, which was health sciences. She even considered a pre-med or nursing program and took a lot of chemistry, biology, anatomy and physiology courses. It was during her sophomore year that she decided to pursue her love of writing, as well, and major in English. “I have the best of it. I’m writing about what I love to read about!” she said.
As a news reporter, she’s also writing about what other people love – or need – to read about. In 1999, Boen’s proficiency in health news earned her a trip to Johns Hopkins University Hospital. She and a national CBS television crew were in the operating room during the surgery of the first person in the U.S. to donate a kidney anonymously to anyone who needed it. Her groundbreaking story went national as People Magazine, The New York Times and other publications picked up the story. The story of the anonymous kidney donation changed the way people look at organ donating and won her the Clarion Award for hard news from the Association for Women Communications.
While not every story receives such national recognition, others remind Boen of God’s faithfulness. She was once asked to cover a local nonprofit counseling center who asked a board member to step down when they discovered she was homosexual. She recalls, “I was told to write the story about this counseling center that is ‘supposedly serving all populations and is refusing to keep this person of this persuasion,’ as my editor put it.” That very week before the Supreme Court was the high-profile Boy Scouts case in which the Boy Scouts organization was fighting for the right to deny leadership positions to those who were openly gay. On the same day that Boen’s story was printed, so was the Supreme Court decision on the Boy Scouts. The Court ruled that a nonprofit could do what they want if they are not taking government money, giving Boen’s story and its subject added credibility.
“I have to ask for God’s direction and strength,” said Boen. “I walk a fine line between being an objective journalist and an editorialist. But the way I am sometimes asked to cover something is already biased. There’s been more than once that I’ve gone home to my husband and said, “I can’t do this anymore.” But for every time that happens, there are five times when the source telling her story expresses her faith and I get the chance to share with her.”
Journalist, The News-Sentinel
B.A., English, Huntington College, 1971
Graduate courses, Northern State University and Purdue University
2001 Fellowship to the University of Maryland’s School of Specialized Journalism
1999 Clarion Award for groundbreaking story on the first U.S. anonymous kidney donation
Several awards for a series on nursing homes comparing patterns in nonprofit and for-profit homes
How a Christian college developed her purpose:
“At Huntington, I was taught to examine what I believed. This was not just my parents’ faith, but my faith. That’s the beginning of the drive of purpose. Then of course, the liberal arts education prepared me for my career. I have the most perfect job geared for me, and it’s given me great opportunities.”
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