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Former resident awarded MVC Writer's Service Award

Sunday, April 27, 2003

NEW ORLEANS - A former Sikeston resident has been awarded the MVC Writer's Service Award.

Jack Watkins, son of Jack and Esther Watkins of Sikeston, graduated in 1981 from Sikeston High School and was a sports writer with the Daily Standard in the early 1980s.

Watkins, who is an associate commissioner of the St. Louis-based Missouri Valley Conference, was honored by the U.S. Basketball Writers Association for service to the media. As he accepted the Katha Quinn Award, Watkins considered the virtues of those who had come before him. "Which one of these is not like the other?" he joked. The award was presented by Steve Weiberg of USA Today and former president of USBWA. He said Watkins embodies the spirit of the award as much as any of the 12 recipients.

Quinn, for whom the award is named, persisted in her work and inspired many others after being diagnosed with cancer. Watkins persevered with his duties as he and his wife, Genny, dealt with the lifelong illness and death of their 6-year-old daughter, Kate.

"This award will always allow her legacy to live on," said Watkins, whose remarks moved many of the several hundred observers to tears. Watkins said his daughter was born prematurely with four of the five symptoms of Walker-Warburg Syndrome, a brain, eye and muscle affliction that led to 18 operations. She was 36-inches long and weighed 32 pounds when she died on April 26, 2002, just weeks before her seventh birthday.

"But her spirit made a mark on all who knew her," Watkins continued, "and led the way for our family."

During her illness, Watkins had moderated conference calls from her hospital room or went back to his office to work even after midnight to make sure he didn't fall behind, even though he knew he had the constant support of his MVC colleagues.

"I did what any father should do, any parent should do," he said as he thanked many people for their love - especially his wife, who he said is responsible "for all that I am and all that I hope to be."