Tribune-Herald Chief Photographer Rod Aydelotte has been named the 2014 Distinguished Alumnus for McLennan Community College.
The award is given annually to a graduate for outstanding career success. Aydelotte is being honored Tuesday night in a ceremony at the MCC Conference Center.
Aydelotte received an associate’s degree at the college and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Baylor University. He has been with the Tribune-Herald for 33 years and has earned recognition from the Texas Associated Press Managing Editors for feature photography.
“Rod Aydelotte singularly has chronicled the history of this community in such an incredibly effective and impressive way that no one else has covered as thoroughly as he has,” said MCC history professor Henry Apperson, one of the faculty members who nominated Aydelotte for the award.
“He is a modern-day Gildersleeve,” he said, referring to renowned Waco photographer Fred Gildersleeve.
Aydelotte’s photo credits cover the 1993 Branch Davidian siege at Mount Carmel and the 2013 West Fertilizer Co. explosion. He has photographed seven U.S. presidents during visits to Waco, from Gerald Ford to Barack Obama, as well as appearances from foreign dignitaries like British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Bishop Desmond Tutu.
In between, he has covered everything from court cases and major weather events to school programs and Little League, high school and college sports.
“Every day that I get up, Rod Aydelotte has been on the front porch, in the kitchen, in the bedroom, in the bathroom of many people in this community,” Apperson said. “He’s been in our presence and he’s given us great inspiration, and I can’t think of any person more deserving than Rod Aydelotte.”
Past recipients of the award include former Bellmead Mayor Robert Hawkins; AMC Financial Holdings Vice President Bill Goss, who chaired MCC’s $74.5 million bond election in 2006; and Landon Hengst, a Blue Bell Creameries branch manager who led the Highlander baseball team to the National Junior College World Series title in 1983.
Aydelotte, who was modest about the recognition, said he wasn’t sure what career path he would take when he started at MCC. But he decided to attend the college because of its academic reputation, the scenic layout of the campus and a chance to remain rooted in Waco after frequently relocating during his father’s time in the Air Force.
“They had great teachers and it was a great experience,” Aydelotte said. “Teachers over there really stayed with you after you left, and that’s probably the best thing that happened to me. Mainly, they were down-to-earth, and they never treated you like a student, they treated you like a person.”
Though his photography training began at Baylor, Aydelotte credits art history and drawing classes he took at MCC with piquing his interest in visual media. He counts art history professor Barney Fitzpatrick and government professor Paul Holder as major influences.
Aydelotte worked at the Temple Daily Telegram for three years before joining the Tribune-Herald. He has done freelance work for the Associated Press and Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine, but he said he’s always believed a photographer in a small city can capture as many meaningful moments as one in a large city.
But for all the pictures he’s taken, it’s the moments he’s missed that continue to drive him.
“You capture a photo, and you have to work hard to capture that photo, but a lot of times you miss the photo not seeing it as it happens or not anticipating it as it happens,” Aydelotte said.
“For every good photo, there’s a missed photo that either you weren’t set up right or you didn’t react quick enough or it happened so fast you can’t capture it, and that’s what you remember more than anything.”
Tuesday’s ceremony also will recognize Luis Terceiro, who earned an associate’s degree in nursing from MCC in December 2013 and recently was certified as a registered nurse.
Harry Harelik, executive director of the MCC Foundation, said the college began the awards recognition ceremony six years ago to highlight graduates’ contributions to their field and the greater Waco community.
“Here in Waco, sometimes we’re overshadowed by Baylor, or UT or A&M, and there’s nothing wrong with them, but sometimes folks forget that MCC returns more of its graduates to our community than any other institution of higher learning,” Harelik said.
“We have a lot of individuals out in the community that are doing great things, and they got their start here at MCC.”