Farewell: From Texas to Tucson, a legacy of excellence


Cynthia Lancaster poses with her student journalists in her firs t photo at the Aztec Press in 2007. / Aztec Press photo.

Pima Community College journalism instructor Cynthia Lancaster will retire on May 18. In her time at PCC, she has guided scores of students toward careers in journalism and media.

Born Cynthia Ann Brunstein on Sept. 19, 1953 in Cottonwood, Arizona, she was the second child of five, the only daughter.

Her father, James Brunstein, was a high school English and journalism instructor, a principal and eventually a superintendent. Her mother, Charlotte Brunstein, originally a homemaker, became a teacher as well.

Lancaster graduated from Kofa High School in Yuma in 1971. At age 16, she began dating her high school sweetheart, John Lancaster. They would marry in 1974.

She went on to attend the University of Arizona, graduating with a degree in journalism in 1975. She earned her master’s a year later.

During her time at UA, Lancaster was a key staff member at the Daily Wildcat, the college’s student newspaper. She used that experience to jumpstart her career in news media, and eventually moved back to Yuma to write for the Yuma Daily Sun.

Lancaster accepted a position as reporter at the Brazosport Facts in 1977, a newspaper located in Brazoria County, Texas. She started off as a courtroom reporter, rising through the ranks and eventually being promoted to city and lifestyle editor.

During her time in Brazoria County, Lancaster became a mother. Her first child, Scott, was born in 1983. Her daughter, Sarah, followed in 1986.

In 2003, Lancaster took a position as a part-time instructor of journalism at Brazosport College.

Lancaster recalls stopping in Tucson while on a road trip with her husband in 2006. “It just felt right,” she said. “The first thing I did was Google ‘journalism jobs in Tucson.’ This job at Pima came up and I thought, ‘That’s exactly what I’m already doing.’”

In 2007, Lancaster began advising the Aztec Press and teaching various journalism classes at West Campus, full time. Under her guidance, the Aztec Press won numerous awards from a wide range of media organizations.

Cynthia Lancaster laughs as her final staff photo is taken with her current Aztec Press members. / Aztec Press photo

Lancaster is humble about her legacy. “I think I’ve prepared students by teaching them how to run a proper newsroom,” she said. “That’s the most important part, to learn how to be a professional.”

Students of Cynthia past and present took their time to wish her well into retirement below.

Cynthia Lancaster’s time and influence here at Pima Community College cannot be understated.

The number of lives she has changed in her teachings over the course of her 10 years is immeasurable.

Cynthia not only helped teach us the basics of AP Style, she helped us make new connections into the journalism world, inspired us to be the best we possibly could and pushed us to meet the “real” world ready, prepared and excelling at what the workforce required of us.

Her time with all of us may have seemed eternal and even though she may be moving on to her own personal projects, her inclusion in our lives will stay with us forever.

-By Alex Fruechtenicht, assistant advisor and alumnus

Thank you, first and foremost. You drilled in me AP style and ethics for journalism. But more importantly you taught me how to be critical of my own writing. Because of that, I have improved dramatically and I won’t stop because of the fundamentals you have instilled inside my head.

I wish you the best retirement that anyone can have because you deserve it after all the hard work you have done for the paper.

I know I speak for everyone when I say, you will surely be missed!

-By Nicholas Trujillo, current web editor

Cynthia, I consider the knowledge and experience that you’ve imparted to me this semester to be invaluable.

I was extremely lucky to experience your last semester as the faculty adviser. I wish I could have had more time to learn from you.

I appreciate everything you’ve done for me and all the time you took to educate Pima students over the years.

-By Dale Villeburn Old Coyote, current staffer

There are at least a few of us who would not, today, call ourselves journalists were it not for Cynthia Lancaster’s guidance. There are probably many more of us who wouldn’t be as good of journalists. I count myself in both groups.

It took years, but under Cynthia’s example I learned to live and breathe journalism. Had it not been for her and my peers at the Aztec Press, who taught me everything it means to be a journalist, I surely would have abandoned the craft long ago.

For what they have taught me, and for the part they played in bringing me to my passion, I will be forever grateful.

Your influence will continue to guide many of us through the rest of our careers, Cynthia.

Thank you.

-By Nick Meyers, alumnus

Cynthia Lancaster has given me the greatest opportunity as a writer, reporter, photographer and much more as a person.

Thank you for allowing me to be a part of the Aztec Press which allowed me to open up as a writer and allow my work to be read.

Thank you for teaching me as an individual that journalism can take me far. I always knew there was something about writing that I enjoy.

Good luck and best wishes for your retirement Cynthia.

-By Daniella Campuzano, current staffer

To Cynthia Lancaster, who taught me the importance of good and honest writing.

Thank you for teaching me that deadlines have never been more important than they are on a Wednesday or Friday at 9 a.m. sharp.

Thank you for all the opportunities you have given me, including participating in the Aztec Press.

I was able to start off writing my first opinion column, and to interview artists and Intercampus Council members and for that I am grateful.

Enjoy your retirement and I cannot wait to read your book.

-By Dakota Fincher, current staffer

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for putting up with me. I know I got on your nerves from time to time for missing deadline, but you never stopped letting me produce my bizarre content. You taught me to love photography, you taught this class how to produce a paper from scratch, you taught us how to believe in our work. And for that I am forever grateful. You gave me the tools to move forward from Pima Community College, thank you.

-By Ashley Muñoz, current co-photo editor

“What would Cynthia do?” That was my motto at the Aztec Press. Before an interview, during a photo shoot and prior to sending copy her way I tried to answer that question. About three years later, I’m heading home — taking on an internship that was only a dream when I started at the AzP.

If fortunate, you’ll have a few eras when life’s timing is pitch perfect. Working with Cynthia was one of mine. I believe we strived for perfection, because Cynthia gave us what we needed. She provided enough praise to keep our heads up, no matter what went awry, and enough constructive criticism to become professionals.

And for that, I hope my sincerest “thank you” is enough.

By David J. Del Grande, alumnus

When I started at Pima, as a returning student and single mother, I had to decide whether to work toward security or my dreams. I chose creative writing.

I took Journalism 101 on a whim. That’s where I first met Cynthia Lancaster. She saw my drive and talent and encouraged me to join Aztec Press.

After a year as Aztec Press news editor, I transferred to the University of Arizona. I was already a cut above the UA students, along with my Aztec Press colleagues who also transferred. The UA students had more journalism classes, but we had Cynthia.

Two-and-a-half years later, I’m about to graduate with a bachelor’s in journalism. I’m a regular freelancer for the Tucson Weekly, and I’ve had cover stories on almost every section of the Arizona Daily Star.

If it weren’t for Cynthia’s direction, encouragement and belief in me, I may not have had the courage to whole-heartedly pursue a career that’s highly competitive, rewarding and of critical importance to society.

I’ll always remember Cynthia as the woman who gave me the confidence to follow my dreams and the skills to attain them.

-By Danyelle Khmara, alumna

Cynthia, I’ll never stop thanking you for the opportunity to be a part of the Aztec Press family. I have learned so much from you and I will always remember the sacrifices and hard work that you put in to maintain such a respectable program. I truly feel lucky to have been able to know you and be your student. Best wishes.

-By Casey Muse Jr., current sports editor

I feel honored to have been the last editor in chief under Cynthia’s direction. Many will not understand the hard work and dedication she puts into this paper. Thank you for preparing not only me but ever single student you’ve taught for the ‘real world’ of journalism. Happy retirement and enjoy your time!

-By Melina Casillas, current editor in chief

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