AM&N graduate retires, credits alma mater for firm foundation

Al Allen, a 1967 AM&N (Arkansas Agricultural, Mechanical and Normal College) graduate, recently retired from WJBK Fox 2 News in Detroit after nearly 30 years in the industry.

Having begun his higher education with an associate degree from the Detroit College of Business, the Little Rock native had warm memories of his time at AM&N, now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, while pursuing his degree in mass communications-broadcast journalism.

“I had a great time [while at AM&N],” said Allen. “I enjoyed it thoroughly.”

Allen tells his student interns that the experience of attending a black college is something you can never take away — he spent a good deal of his time working at a local radio station in Pine Bluff where he was able to do a news segment, act as an on-air personality and sell advertising.

“We did a little bit of everything,” said Allen.

Allen credits the work ethic it took to accomplish so much in his life to one of his journalism instructors while at AM&N. “He always said that you are only as good as your last newscast,” said Allen, adding that his instructor would end the statement with, “and your last newscast wasn’t that good.”

He has been awarded several honors for his work, including the prestigious Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for his half-hour documentary about Black on Black Crime in Detroit. The honor afforded him an opportunity to meet the Kennedys at their mansion.

Despite his numerous accolades, Allen remains humble. “They tell me these things I’ve done and I don’t believe all that,” said Allen. “I just showed up and worked every day.”

Allen continues to be passionate about reporting and misses his work, adding that former 60 Minutes host Mike Wallace didn’t retire until he was 90 years old. “He didn’t think he could do anything else. [As a news reporter] you become consumed by what you do.”

Encouraging everyone to go to college, Allen noted that the experience of being around new people and a new environment can be a challenge, but added that attending a smaller institution like UAPB allows students to get more attention and ultimately learn more.

“You become a part of the fabric of the institution,” said Allen. “And that’s a wonderful thing.”