Originally created 11/27/01

After illness, teacher returns



AIKEN - Professor Linda Owens returned to the University of South Carolina Aiken this fall after waging a war against a deadly disease and spending a year in a Charleston hospital.

Now in remission from acute myeloid leukemia, Ms. Owens has resumed her position as head of the USC Aiken communications department.

Diagnosed in October 2001, Ms. Owens lost her straight blonde hair, which eventually grew back curly. She continues to endure chemotherapy treatments, teach classes and advise the weekly student newspaper, Pacer Times.

The editors and writers of the newspaper said they missed the bags of candy and the Monday night deadline meals Ms. Owens brought before she was hospitalized.

Former student Daniel Garnett says Ms. Owens changed his life.

If it were not for Ms. Owens' guidance, Mr. Garnett said, he would not be where he is today, the sports writer for The Citizen News, a weekly paper in Edgefield County.

Mr. Garnett was among Ms. Owens' first batch of communications students 20 years ago. He was ready to quit college and work two full-time jobs. That was until she talked him into staying in school and working only one job, he said.

"I owe her everything with getting me started in newspapers. I had no idea what I was going to do," Mr. Garnett said.

A sign on her office door reads "Help protect the endangered species, Professor Linda Owens." Anyone with a virus or cold must wear a surgical mask before entering the small room because her immune system is still weak.

She was recently appointed to a second one-year term as the only journalism professor on the board of the National Newspaper Association.

Her journalism philosophy is simple. She teaches her students "to write for the man in the parking lot sitting in the green pickup truck" - in other words, the person on the street.

Reach Carly Phillips at (803) 648-1395 or carly.phillips@augustachronicle.com.