I’ve served as President of the Motor Press Guild for the past two years, and the position includes the responsibility to host the MPG Awards Ceremonies, our annual black-tie-optional dinner, holiday party and celebration of excellence in automotive journalism. I’ve also been the Chairman of the MPG Awards Committee for four years running. I recruited head judges for each category, supervised the submission and judging process, and served as Head Judge for the top honor, the Dean Batchelor Award. I also wrote the script for the awards ceremony, generated the Powerpoint presentation, and booked the entertainment. In other words, I’ve been very involved and invested in this program. It’s a little nerve-wracking, considering that close to 200 industry professionals attend each year. It’s also a lot of work and a lot of fun, because it gives me a chance to bring some of my theater experience to bear on my current career. It reminds me that everything we do in the present is in some way preparation for the future, and life is a constant opportunity to learn and grow as a person.
This year’s awards were a big success, thanks to hard work from everyone at MPG. We got a record number of submissions, and the quality of writing, videography, photography and audio content was outstanding. You can see the list of winners here.
Periodically, we also give out an award for lifetime achievement. This was one of those years, and the recipient was Jean Jennings. Only the second female winner of the 13 figures who have received this honor, Jean was a unanimous choice when her name came up at a Board of Directors meeting. Auto journalist Michael Jordan gave a testimonial speech, and I got to set up the award and present the trophy to Jean. It was a great honor, and the highlight of the evening for me.
Here’s what I said about Jean during the ceremony:
We received an unusually large number of nominations for this award this year. Doug Stokes, last year’s recipient, claims that giving him the award opened the floodgates — now, anyone could get one. But that’s not true. Ask Doug to show you the list of previous recipients in his wallet for proof.
Despite the long list of potential recipients, the minute that Jean’s name came up in our Board meeting, the discussion was at an end. We immediately knew that she was the right choice, and voted unanimously to honor her tonight.
I’m going to let her friend Michael Jordan tell you all about why Jean deserves this award. But first, I want to tell a small personal story…
I first met Jean at Pebble, during the heat of the afternoon. My friend, the late Patrick Paternie, waved me over to join him, Jean and Michael Jordan at a shaded table. Jean and I instantly began chatting about pop music, a shared passion. She insisted that I would love Blue Nile; I knew that she’d be into Dawes. We exchanged email addresses so we could continue our conversation, and she and Patrick departed, leaving me with Michael Jordan.
Michael looked at me, and asked whether I had spoken with Jean before. When I answered “No,” he said — “That’s impressive. She doesn’t usually take to strangers.”
I figured it must have been a fluke, but no — every time I have seen Jean since our first meeting, she has been warm, generous, funny and friendly, and I’ve never heard of anyone who has had a different experience. I guess we just figure that a person who has such an impressive background and such a list of achievements as a leader in her field must be guarded and hard to approach.
If I had allowed myself to think about Jean’s achievements as a test driver, as a writer, editor, publisher and media figure, I might have been intimidated. But all I ever see is this friendly beautiful face, usually beneath a wild hat and sporting a giant smile. I’ve followed her work from Car and Driver to Automobile Magazine to Jean Knows Cars, and I’m honored to know her personally.
Jean Jennings, on behalf of the Motor Press Guild, I’m honored to present you with the Dean Batchelor Excellence in Automotive Journalism Lifetime Achievement Award.
This was my final turn as host of the Motor Press Guild Awards. Our by-laws limit me to two consecutive terms as President, so I’ll be turning over the gavel to my successor in January. It will be a melancholy day for me, as I’ve really enjoyed my time as President, and I’m very proud of the organization’s accomplishments. But it will also be a relief, as the volunteer position took a lot of time and energy to fulfill. I’ll still be on the Board of Directors for another two years, and I’ll remain devoted to the MPG and its members. I just won’t have the tremendous responsibility of running a 700-member not-for-profit organization any longer.
Photos by Myles Regan.