The ink had barely dried on my college diploma when Debi Ryan took a chance on me and hired me as a copy editor at the Daily Sentinel in 2011. I packed my bags and moved to Nacogdoches from Knoxville, Tennessee, fully anticipating to leave after I had a year or so of experience under my belt. I ended up staying for much longer and got to be part of an award-winning newspaper staff led by Debi. I’ve been living in the Brazos Valley for a few years now, but the lessons I learned and friendships I gained in Nacogdoches are ones I cherish.

Debi taught me many things … how to get the story and write an eye-catching headline, how to make difficult phone calls and how to spot a tall tale when you see one. She taught me how to write a school board story in 30 minutes flat, and she encouraged me to keep pushing for the truth, even when it wasn’t right in front of my face.

The people of Nacogdoches deserved to know what was going on in the community, and with Debi at the helm of the paper, our readers didn’t need to wonder how their tax dollars were being spent, or what decisions were reached in county commission meetings. Debi also taught me how to own my mistakes, and she tried (and failed) to teach me punctuality.

I felt a mix of emotions when I learned that Debi was retiring. First, I felt happiness for her, because she deserves to kick up her feet for a while. I also felt sadness knowing that she won’t be behind that big brown door at the back of the office, fielding emails and looking over her glasses at her reporters to make sure they’re not dilly dallying. There was a deadline to meet, after all.

I’m certain the Sentinel will continue to be the heartbeat of Nacogdoches, as it has been for over a century. Cheers to you, Deb!

P.S. Thanks for hiring that intern (Justin Ikpo) in 2013. Married life is great.

Kim Foli Ikpo, Bryan

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