Skip to main content

Profile In Excellence: The Value of Words

December 6, 2010

If her calculations are correct, Terri Yarbrough-McAdoo has written more than 10 million words since graduating from OBU with a journalism degree. "I was never good at math, so I may be off by a couple of million," she said. "But thanks to former OBU professor John Lovelace, I'm an ace when it comes to working with words."

Yarbrough-McAdoo said that Lovelace's passion for writing, interviewing and getting to the heart of the real story inspired her to pursue a journalism degree. After graduating in 1983, she served as a radio news director, television reporter, and newspaper reporter and editor. She currently owns a successful writing and editing agency in New Jersey.

Terri Yarbrough-McAdoo, a 1983 OBU graduate, received the Profile in Excellence Award at OBU's Centennial Homecoming, Nov. 12-13, 2010. The award is given by the OBU Alumni Association in recognition of service and leadership.

"John Lovelace was right on target when he told us in class that journalists are students of the world," Yarbrough-McAdoo said. "As a journalist, you learn and experience something new every day. Most of the time, it's painful stuff that keeps you grounded and grateful for God's grace."

Some of her most memorable stories include hanging out of a helicopter to film dead cattle during a flood; accompanying a sheriff's department on middle-of-the-night drug raids; and writing a series of award-winning stories about women who adopted HIV-positive children.

"The story my sons like the most is the one where I covered the annual rattlesnake round-up in Oklahoma," Yarbrough-McAdoo said. "I climbed into the snake pit and learned how to pick up a rattlesnake without getting hurt. Looking back, I would have to say that was not one of my best decisions."

Her decision to attend OBU was less dangerous, especially since she knew the campus well. Her father, Dr. Tom Yarbrough, was University counselor from 1969-80 and taught on Bison Hill. The family lived in Jent Apartments when Terri was 9 years old.

"I knew about OBU from an early age, and my interaction with the professors and students there were always positive," she recalled. "When it came time to make a decision about college, OBU was my first choice."

Her choice for a major was a bit more challenging. Torn between journalism and psychology, she discovered that being a journalist "required considerable insights into the human psyche."

"I took some basic psychology classes and read books on my own to develop a deeper understanding of personalities and behaviors," she said. "This knowledge has helpd me immensely during tough interviews with sources."

In the 1990s, Yarbrough-McAdoo was working for the largest and oldest weekly newspaper in New Jersey, The Hunterdon County Democrat. In 1994, the New Jersey Press Association named her Journalist of the Year for her coverage of health issues, criminal courts, religion and non-profit organizations. In 1996, she opened her own writing and editing agency, Terri McAdoo Communications LLC, which specializes in employee communications and public relations for the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, consumer products, data management and construction industries.

She has received multiple writing awards from the International Association of Business Communicators, including awards for several annual reports and a book titled "Legal Legends & Lore," which traces the vivid characters, tragedies and triumphs of a corporate law department.

"During my research for the book, I had to interview 50 lawyers from all over the world - and get all of their quotes approved," she said. "The copious notes I had to take in Western Civilization class back in the '80s were a piece of cake compared to the book deal."

This year, Yarbrough-McAdoo will celebrate 15 years as a business owner.

"I am successful today largely because an OBU professor recognized my potential as a writer, took the time to encourage me to never give up, and taught me to be an excellent journalist and an ethical businessperson."

Yarbrough-McAdoo tries to instill those same values in her students. For the past seven years, she has served as an adjunct professor of writing at Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J.

"If I see a student struggling, I do everything I can to help that student get back on track," she said. "John Lovelace did that for me a long time ago, and now it's my turn."

Beyond teaching and running a business, Yarbrough-McAdoo has raised two sons who are now in college, Ragen, 23, and Jordan, 21. She serves as moderator for Cherryville Baptist Church in Flemington, N.J. She also is a leader in her church for the Truth Project®, a Focus on the Family series that examines biblical truth versus the world's view of truth.

"I took Old Testament, New Testament and biblical ethics classes at OBU. And, of course, there were all those chapel requirements," Yarbrough-McAdoo said. "Those classes actually gave me a clinical and spiritual foundation that helps me lead the Truth Project. I remember grumbling about having to buy that hefty biblical ethics textbook. I'm sure glad I kept it."

Hefty books contain a lot of words. For Yarbrough-McAdoo, words continue to be a valuable commodity for building up lives.

Click the following link to view a full list of previous Profile in Excellence recipients.