VTSU alum Shelly Holt Allen retires from award-winning career in photo journalism

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Shelly Holt Allen

In 41-year trail-blazing career as videographer at WCAX, Allen mentored many VTSU students over the years

Vermont Business Magazine Today, Friday, November 17, Lyndon State College—now Vermont State University (VTSU) Lyndon—alum Shelly Holt Allen, will enjoy her final day behind the camera as assistant chief news photographer at WCAX. Shelly will retire from a trail-blazing career that includes induction into the Vermont Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2021. A pioneer in this male-dominated profession, Shelly was the first female videographer and only the second female photographer at the Burlington-based station.

Joe Carroll, Chief News Photographer at WCAX, a colleague of Shelly’s for 38 years, and himself a Lyndon alum, believes she’s enjoyed the longest career of a female news photographer in the country.

“Shelly came to this career at a time when not many women did, and she’s been at it ever since!” he noted.

“There aren’t many women photographers in the news landscape who have accomplished what Shelly has accomplished, or who have stayed with a station nearly as long,” remarked Meaghan Meachem, professor and chair, journalism and communications at VTSU Lyndon. “I’ve really appreciated her willingness to sweep our students under her wing when she runs into them in the field, offering tips and even mentoring News7 photographers and reporters during busy election seasons at political headquarters in Burlington over the years. Shelly has left her mark on the budding photojournalists of the next generation, and the journalism program at Lyndon is beyond happy for her as she embarks upon new adventures in retirement.”

When Allen started at Lyndon, her classes focused on still photography and visual literacy and students shot on black-and-white reel-to-reel videotape. News Center 2 (the precursor to what is now VTSU’s News7) was limited, and students taped news and took it to St. Johnsbury Cable to broadcast. 

Between Allen’s third and fourth year, the program received a grant to build a new television studio in the back of the Alexander Twilight Theatre to send broadcasts from campus directly via microwave signal. Students earned credits for building the TV station and they broadcast news programs at 6 a.m. and 5 p.m., re-running taped versions later on the same day.

“On behalf of the entire Vermont State University family, we congratulate Shelly on her successful career at WCAX,” said David Bergh, Interim President of Vermont State University. “One of the characteristics that sets our alumni apart is their continued support for and connection to the institution. Shelly is a wonderful example of an alum who paid it forward by mentoring and coaching dozens of aspiring journalists. The state of Vermont and media landscape are so much better for her contributions.”

“I loved working in the TV station,” Allen said, “and because of that experience, I knew what to do when I started at WCAX after graduation.”

Shelly Holt Allen, far right, adjusts the lens while covering the announcement November 8 that Breeze Airways would commence flights from BTV early next year. Vermontbiz photo. Top photo courtesy Vermont Broadcasters Association.

The job of a news photographer certainly has exciting moments, but it comes with unique experiences, too.

“The news camera is a passport that takes you places the average person can’t go,” Carroll said. “But it’s also a very unusual job. In the morning, you might be loved for shooting a feature story, but then you’re shooting a crime scene and are told ‘get that camera out of my face.’

“The news team spends a lot of time together covering stories while traveling the state,” he explained, “and you become very close to each other. Shelly has become a mentor to the younger photographers at the station,” he added.

“I’ve met some absolutely fantastic people along the way,” Allen said. “It’s been fun, though stressful at times, and there’s been a lot of change in the industry. I never thought I’d stay this long!”

Learn more about Vermont State University’s Communications program here: https://vermontstate.edu/academic-programs/communications-ba/

The entire Vermont State University community wishes Allen well on her retirement and offers huge congratulations on a meaningful career.

About Vermont State University  

Vermont State University combines the best of Castleton University, Northern Vermont University, and Vermont Technical College and serves students on five campuses and multiple learning sites across the Green Mountains and beyond, as well as online. Vermont State provides a high-quality, flexible, and affordable education for students seeking associate, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees, certificates, and in-demand professional credentials. The university builds upon a history of public higher education in Vermont dating back to 1787. Learn more at VermontState.edu.

Lyndon, VT – 11.17.2023

vermontbiz.com Vermont Business Magazine