The Cat Writers’ Association (CWA) is proud to honor James R. Richards, DVM, with the 2007 Shojai Mentor Award, awarded for exceptional teaching and inspiring countless cat writers throughout his lifetime. The award recognizes one CWA member annually who went above and beyond the mentorship duties by offering superior guidance, encouragement and support to a fellow member.
Amy Shojai, founding president of the CWA and sponsor of this award, can personally attest to Dr. Richards’ impact as a mentor. In a statement posted to Shojai’s Web site following Richards’ April 2007 death she wrote, “Long before I dared call myself a real writer, he valued me as a professional and (unbelievably) treated me as a colleague right from the beginning. For nearly 17 years, Jim’s support was only a phone call away.”
Shojai estimates that nearly 90 percent of CWA members had similar experiences with Dr. Richards’ generosity and support. Steve Dale, radio host and nationally syndicated columnist, claimed in his statement following Dr. Richards’ passing that he was the person he interviewed most.
Dr. Richards was more than a mentor; he was an inspiration to hundreds of cat writers. He validated their profession by assuring each one that by helping cats, they were helping people. He was the dinner speaker at the 2004 CWA awards banquet and used the opportunity to encourage the nearly 100 attendees and reiterate the importance of pets in our lives.
As director of the Cornell Feline Health Center at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Richards contributed to the CWA and its members by funding the Cornell Feline Health Center Veterinary Issues Award. This award, renamed in his honor, continues to encourage and inspire writers to tackle difficult stories on the topics of technological or medical advances, research, or innovations in feline veterinary medicine.
Dr. Richards was also a mentor by example. He never turned down interviews and was an exemplary spokesperson for feline health and awareness campaigns, most recently for the KNOW Heartworms initiative, which aims to tackle the myths of feline heartworm disease and create understanding. He was also the editor-in-chief of Cat Watch, published by the Cornell Feline Health Center.
About The Cat Writers’ Association, Inc.
CWA was founded in 1992 and is dedicated to providing news, information, and education on all aspects of cat care and welfare, as well as improving the quality of writing about cats. CWA provides members with networking opportunities and encourages professionalism and communication among cat writers, photographers, artists, editors and broadcasters. Nancy Peterson, of Chevy Chase, MD, serves as president of this organization.