Professors and Alumni Reflect on the Life of Former Sundial Publisher, Manley Witten

(File Photo / Sundial)
(File Photo / Sundial)
(File Photo / Sundial)

Manley Witten, publisher of The Sundial for 11 years before departing in 2008, died on Jan. 18. Witten lost his life to cancer, but his legacy and admirable traits will live on.

Witten was not just a professor, he was a mentor, activist and a leader for positive change.

“He was truly inspiring and represents a form of guidance and inspiration in my life. Now as a teacher, I try to instill a lot of the same values in my students. Hopefully, his legacy will live on through the values I try to instill upon my students,” Marc Tolentino, former student of Witten, said.

“Manley shaped many students lives and careers during his tenure as the publisher of The Sundial,” said Slav Kandyba, CSUN alumni and former Sundial staff writer. “He was the kind of figure who, when you came across him as a student, would either reinforce your desire to choose journalism as a career path or leave it completely. And that’s only speaking about him as a teacher. He left a mark as a professional.”

Journalism professor, Timothy Whyte, said Witten was very passionate about promoting good journalism and the traditional values of journalism. He showed students how to produce copy accurately and effectively.

“Passion, that’s the biggest thing that stood out to me just hearing the name Manley Witten,” said Whyte.

Oscar Areliz worked with Witten as the sports editor for The Sundial in 2006 and described him as a man of words.

“Very smart, witty and honest. He cared for his students, but he also cared for journalism. He wanted his students to be proper journalists, but he also wanted them to express themselves,” Areliz said.

Areliz believes most of Witten’s students would vouch for him, and say he went above and beyond for his students and really wanted to see them succeed.

“Manley was one of the best people I’ve ever met,” Areliz said. “He helped shape the person I am today, and I know he had that kind of impact on many more students. He never gave up on me, and I’ll never forget that.”

Areliz agreed with most, saying Witten was more than just a professor– he was a great man. Areliz learned to respect journalism and himself. Witten taught Areliz that the best of journalists also incorporate some of themselves into their work and showed him how to give a voice to the voiceless.

“Manley found the perfect balance of educating journalists while developing young adults,” Areliz said. “As a man of sayings and words, he just knew what to say at the right time. I still remember his words to this day.”

“The only word I could use to describe Manley Witten was selfless,” Journalism Professor Melissa Wall, said.

Her finest moment of Witten was when he took on the role of finishing the book “War with Mexico! America’s Reporters Cover the Battlefront” by Professor Tom Riley, after his death.

“I think that’s what I admired most about him, his ability to be selfless. I always found that honorable,” said Wall.

According to Journalism Professor Ezra Shapiro, Witten was known for his ability to make a student see their worth and for many he was that voice in their ear that helped them make it through college and obtain a degree in something that they truly loved.

When reminiscing over the life of Witten, Shapiro felt it was hard to limit his legacy to words. According to Shapiro, Witten had this ability to leave those impacted and around him speechless.

“Committed. He was so much more than that, but you can never forget how committed Manley was,” said Jody Holcomb, general manager of The Sundial.

Shapiro said Witten was known for having no sense of humor when it came to the injustice and fighting for inequality, and was always looking out for the “little guy.”

“He wouldn’t be happy to hear me say this, but I’m going to say it anyways. He was inspiring,” Shapiro said.

Unfortunately for Shapiro, it was one of the situations were you don’t really grasp the value of something and someone until they’re gone.

Jim Zvonec, the former The Sundial copy and opinion editor from 2004 to 2005, reminisced about his days working with Manley.

“I still remember his lessons and guidance to this day as I stand as a ‘last line of defense’ for my newspapers,” Zvonec said. “I would not be where I am today without you, Manley.”