COLUMBIA, MO - Legendary photojournalist Bill Eppridge will be the University of Missouri School of Journalism’s graduation speaker on Friday May 13 at the Hearnes Center in Columbia, MO, as 406 students receive their degrees. In this year’s Journalism School graduating class, 20 of the candidates studied photojournalism.
Known best for his career at Life magazine from 1964 until the magazine closed in 1972, and currently a staff photographer for Sports Illustrated, Eppridge graduated with a journalism degree from the University of Missouri in 1960 where three times he was the “MU Photographer of the Year” and twice the NPPA College Photographer of the Year.
"It's a real honor to have Bill Eppridge return to Missouri as commencement speaker for the School of Journalism," said David Rees, one of the school's associate professors who is also director of Pictures of the Year International and co-director of the Missouri Photo Workshop. "His career has epitomized the aggressive documentary photojournalism encouraged by his mentor, Cliff Edom. Bill's photographs have not only borne witness to significant events in our time, but have done so with eloquence."
“It seems only yesterday that I was in the same situation as these kids who are on their way out to try to save the world,” Eppridge told News Photographer magazine just a week before the commencement. “I really hope there is another (Bob) Woodward or (Carl) Bernstein or (John) Filo or (Eddie) Adams among them. We need them again ... now.
“Returning to Missouri after 45 years brings me back to what seems like a much quieter time. I do not believe any of us ever dreamed of the nasty things that were eventually to happen. There was Panama, Santo Domingo, Nicaragua, Vietnam and My Lai, Cheney, Schwerner, Goodman and Mississippi burning, the assassinations of JFK, Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, then Robert Kennedy. Now it's the Middle East and the same situations exist that the French and British and Russians faced, and lost.
“Going back to speak to these graduates I feel like I've seen much more than I thought I would, and become much more involved than I ever dreamed. All I ever wanted to do was to change a few minds. Maybe – in some small way – I did that.”
Many believe Eppridge’s landmark photographs came from his photographic coverage of Robert F. Kennedy and the Senator’s assassination in 1968, yet his photographs range from the Vietnam war, to revolutions in Santo Domingo and Panama, to The Beatles and environmental stories like the aftermath of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. His photographs have been published in National Geographic, Paris Match, Stern, The New York Times Magazine, and many other magazines and books.
(Editor's note: The photograph of Bill Eppridge above, taken by David Burnett, is a Polaroid. Burnett said,"I shot the picture of Bill in March after the Northern Short Course in Reston, VA. They spent the night with us. It was duelling Graflexes on the road in front of my house. There's no winner yet, just a draw! A couple of Polaroid imprefections still abide in the picture of Bill, but they make it look right!")