K-State professor overcomes life challenges, wins first place for blog

Gloria Freeland, journalism and mass communications internship coordinator, is the recent recipient of a blog award for two of her "Kansas Snapshots" articles. She is also conducting research for her book in addition to her weekly blog. (Abby Cambiano | The Collegian)

After serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ecuador from 1976 to 1978, Gloria Freeland, journalism and mass communications internship coordinator, moved to San José, Costa Rica, where she worked as a reporter at an English language newspaper, and also met her first husband, who coincidently was from Kansas as well.

After six years of marriage, Freeland’s husband passed away from an aneurysm while she was pregnant with their daughter, Mariya Vaughan, who is now assistant coordinator for K-State First.

Although this was one of the hardest times in her life, Freeland’s college roommate and good friend Debbie Wilds said the tragedy really bonded them.

“Seeing her so devastated tore me apart and I just wanted to support my friend,” Wilds said. “We spent hours on the phone, with her just crying and me listening. I made sure she had something in her mailbox every day to open.”

Despite the distance, Wilds said she and Freeland kept in touch through the years and that destiny knew what it was doing when it brought them together.

“We had fun times in college together, then stayed in touch long distance for the following years when we went in different directions,” Wilds said.

Unfortunately, Wilds and Freeland have not lived in the same town for years now, but they remain good friends even after 44 years.

“We just know that we will be there for one another no matter what, when or where, and that is such a wonderful comforting gift to have in life,” Wilds said.

Last week, Freeland received first place in Kansas Professional Communicators’ 2016 Communications Contest in the “Blogs – Personal (weekly)” category for two of her “Kansas Snapshots” articles.

The two articles were, “Forever 31,” a story about her first husband who passed away in 1986, and “For whom the bells tolled,” Freeland’s perspective over the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.

What started as a column in the Riley Countian newspaper became a weekly blog, which posts stories that draw a link between the past and present every Friday.

“She is a wonderful community member who loves history,” Cheryl Collins, Riley County Historical Museum director, said.

Collins said she has worked with Freeland for years and it has always been a pleasure to work with Freeland in the organization of various events, one of which will be the museum’s centennial this October.

After helping in the development of a community in Ecuador and managing a newspaper in Costa Rica, Freeland returned to Kansas to get a master’s degree and later on become a professor at Kansas State.

Freeland’s colleague and friend Steve Smethers, associate professor of journalism and digital media and associate director for undergraduate studies, said Freeland’s calm personality and professional outlook are some of the qualities that make her a great teacher.

“She has a totally professional outlook, she understands the profession of journalism, she preaches journalism, she lives the professional standards of journalism,” Smethers said.

Freeland is currently working on a book, the biography of K-State alum Velma Carson, a Kansas democrat during the Great Depression.

After Freeland got in touch with Carson’s family to start her research, Carson’s son-in-law decided to donate all of Carson’s documents and letters to K-State archives.

“Last spring I spent almost every Tuesday and Thursday at the K-State archives, like eight hours a day, just going through her letters,” Freeland said. “She wrote letters from the time she was a little girl up until she died.”

Freeland said the next step after finishing the research will be to interview Carson’s family members and only after she has done all of that, can she start thinking about the writing component.

Vaughan said even though her mother has been through good and bad times, she has always found the silver lining in every situation.

“Seeing her strength and resilience throughout everything has served as great inspiration to me throughout some of life’s struggles that I’ve been through as well,” Vaughan said.