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The Journalism School at the University of Montana has a 67-year-old tradition called Dean Stone Night. On one Friday in April every year, the faculty and students and donors come together for a night of cocktails, dinner, and awards and scholarships honoring current J-school students and those who have connections with the Journalism School and have funded scholarships in memory or in honor of their loved ones. Every year, thousands of dollars in awards are given to deserving journalism students.

When my sister Jennifer Servo was a student at the J-school, she attended Dean Stone one year, got all dressed up for the big night, but sadly, she didn’t receive a Dean Stone award that night. She went again the next year, got all dressed up, and Jen received one of the largest awards of the night.

Jen graduated from the University of Montana in 2002 with a degree in journalism. She then moved to Abilene, Texas, to take her first full-time job as a TV news reporter. She loved what she was doing, but she was found murdered in her apartment only two months after moving there. Her murder remains unsolved, but that may change soon.

This weekend my husband and I gave out the Jennifer Servo Memorial Award for the 22nd time at Dean Stone Night. This is the speech I gave before handing out the award.


The first year we gave out the Jennifer Servo Award was in 2003, only 7 months after we lost her.

On the tenth year of giving out the award, Denise (Jen’s former professor) brought together every recipient who had received it and did a special presentation. I still have that photo of us and the whole group of talented journalists together to celebrate journalism and Jen’s memory.

My daughter Mallory was a baby in a car seat on the table the first time she came to Dean Stone. Now, she’ll be a college graduate next month herself, and she will be 22 years old this summer, the same age as her Aunt Jen was when she moved to Abilene.

Twenty-two years, 22 one-thousand-dollar awards (some years it might have been only 500) – you’ve got a couple of public-school teachers keeping this award going. There were some slim years. 😉

In all this time, I just had to keep coming here to give this award. Jen loved the J-school so much.

I’ve been divorced and remarried during that time. My mom lost her husband and remarried during that time and now winters on the beach in Nicaragua. She deserves it.

Through all the changes, this night has remained a priority for me. It’s one of the ways we honor Jen and all of you who have her same ambitions, tenacity, and love of a good story.

For 22 years, I have been promising that one day, I would come here with a special announcement. The news that her case has been finally solved.

Well, this year I have a special announcement.

For the first time in 22 years, I can say that there will be an arrest in my sister’s case. It hasn’t happened yet, but we have been assured by Abilene detectives and prosecutors that Jen’s case is on the docket to go before the grand jury to ask for a warrant to make their arrest. I was hoping that I could tell you tonight that it had already happened.

But I’m learning a lot about our system of justice these days. I’ve learned that it takes time, especially when it involves multiple states. I’ve learned that timing is everything, and I’m trusting the detectives to make their move soon, when they know it is exactly right. But, it is still good news.

The reason this is happening now is because of a show on Oxygen network called Cold Justice. Jen’s case aired almost one week ago on March 30th. It is Season 7, Episode 6, called “The Reporter” for those of you who would like to watch. Because of this show and its extensive resources, expert prosecutor Kelly Seigler went over all the evidence with Abilene detectives. The show also flew crews all around the country to reinterview old witnesses and suspects, and some new witnesses too. What they found gave them what they needed to finally move forward in an indictment.

So, while we are still a long way from justice and a full conviction, this is the right step forward, one that I was worried might never happen.

Without journalists and those who refuse to stop asking the hard questions, we would not be making this progress on my sister’s case today.

The work you do and will do is so important, no matter what field of journalism in which you specialize. And I will forever be a fan of journalists. You are beautiful, brave people. Thank you for what you do.

And next year, I hope to be back with an even greater special announcement.

Tonight, I am honored to give the 22nd Jennifer Servo Award to: ________