Retail Gangster The Insane, Real-Life Story of Crazy Eddie

Gary Weiss (MSJ76)

Back in the fall of 2016 we heard the news about the passing of Eddie Antar, “Crazy Eddie” as he was known to millions of people, the man behind the successful chain of electronic stores and one of the most iconic ad campaigns in history. Few things evoke the New York of a particular era the way “Crazy Eddie! His prices are insaaaaane!” does. The journalist Herb Greenberg called his death the “end of an era” and that couldn’t be more true. What’s insane is that his story has never been told.

Before Enron, before Madoff, before The Wolf of Wall Street, Eddie Antar’s corruption was second to none. The difference was that it was a street franchise, a local place that was in the blood stream of everyone’s daily life in the 1970s and early ’80s. And Eddie pulled it off with a certain style, an in your face blue collar chutzpah. Despite the fact that then U.S. Attorney Michael Chertoffcalled him “the Darth Vader of capitalism” after the extent of the fraud was revealed, one of the largest SEC frauds in American history after Crazy Eddie’s stores went public in 1984, Eddie was talked about fondly by the people who worked for him. They still do–there are myriads of ex-Crazy Eddie employee web pages that still attract fans, and the Crazy Eddie fraud scheme is now taught in every business school across the United States.

Many years have passed since the franchise went down in spectacular fashion but Crazy Eddie’s moment has endured the way that iconic brands and characters do–one only need Google the media outpouring that accompanied his death. Maybe it’s because it crystallized everything about 1970s New York almost perfectly, the merchandise and rise of consumer electronics (stereos!), the ads (cheesy!), the money (cash!). In “Retail Gangster,” investigative journalist Gary Weiss takes readers behind the scenes of one of the most unbelievable business scam stories of all time, a story spanning continents and generations, reaffirming the old adage that the truth is often stranger than fiction.

Giving Back Home

Medill to remodel broadcast studio, largest classroom thanks to transformational gift

A transformational gift from the Aida and Mike Feldman Philanthropic Trust, under the direction of Melissa Bernal-Vega (BSJ97) and Ernesto Vega (P’23, P’25), will enhance the learning environment for students Medill. The gift will create opportunities for Medill students to learn and collaborate using cutting-edge technology and facilities designed to respond to today’s curricular and industry needs.

The gift will support the renovation of the forum in the McCormick Foundation Center, Medill’s most iconic space on the Evanston campus, to upgrade the technology and expand the space to provide enough seating to accommodate Medill’s entire first-year class. The work will be completed in the year ahead, and the space will be renamed in tribute to Melissa’s father, Alfredo M. Bernal.

The gift will also allow an upgrade and expansion of Medill’s broadcast and digital media suite on the fourth floor of the McCormick Foundation Center. The Aida and Mike Feldman Broadcast and Digital Media Suite will include space for TV editing and teaching, podcasting, team meetings and voice-over work. In addition to being at the center of curricular activity, the suite will create a space for student media groups to meet and work.

“We are delighted for the opportunity to transform these spaces to give all Medill students an outstanding environment to learn and practice their skills,” said Medill Dean Charles Whitaker (BSJ80, MSJ81). “We are deeply grateful to the Vega family and the Aida and Mike Feldman Philanthropic Trust for their generosity. These enhanced facilities will support Medill’s efforts to be the best school of its kind in the world.”

Melissa and Ernesto are co-founders of CANVAS Real Estate, a Florida-based firm with more than 20 years in the residential and commercial real estate and property management businesses. CANVAS has 10 offices across Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties and more than 1,100 agents.

Melissa came to Medill as a first-generation student, and it was while she was studying at Northwestern that she met Ernesto, a fellow Cuban American who also grew up in Miami. They are parents of two current Northwestern students: Matthew, a first-year journalism student at Medill, and Michael, a junior studying at the McCormick School of Engineering. Melissa is a co-director of the Northwestern Alumni Admissions Council’s Southeast Florida Region and a member of the Northwestern Parents Leadership Council. She recently joined the Medill Board of Advisers.

“My experience at Northwestern—particularly Medill—informed and transformed my life,” said Melissa. “We are inspired by Medill’s uplifting environment that encourages free thought, mindful and meaningful communication. We are blessed to be part of its future.”

The Vegas are members of the Northwestern University Leadership Circle and NU Loyal Society, with 12 consecutive years of giving to the University. Through the Aida and Mike Feldman Philanthropic Trust, they have also generously supported Northwestern Engineering with the establishment of the Enrique Feldman Studio and Northwestern Student Affairs through their support of the University’s Multicultural Center. The Aida and Mike Feldman Philanthropic Trust supports educational bricks and mortar projects across the United States and in Israel.

The Vegas’ recent gift to Medill was one of the largest Medill received as part of We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern, which helped realize the transformational vis

1990s Featured Legacies Featured Legacies Home Home Legacies

Kurt Paul Stocker (IMC faculty)

Kurt Paul Stocker passed away on February 11th, after a 10-month fight following complications from heart valve surgery. He was 84. Kurt was our patriarch and didn’t leave much on the table. He rounded Cape Horn, he dove from an airplane at 82 years old. He left an indelible impression on all of us. He was a huge contributor in the lives of his family. Beyond the professional accomplishments, Kurt was an artist, a skilled printmaker and filled much of his retirement time in his Corrales studio, porch side with his friends or in a catboat in Florida.

A long time public relations, public affairs and corporate governance professional, Kurt served as Chairman of the NYSE Individual Investor Advisory Board, as a Director of NYSE Regulation Inc. As a member of the Advisory Committee of U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and as a member of the Board of Governors of Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Inc (formerly, NASD).

Kurt was a Senior Executive with Continental Bank Corporation, United Airlines, Allstate and Hill & Knowlton companies.

Other professional organizations included serving as a past President of The Arthur W. Page Society, as well as being inducted into their Hall of Fame. Kurt was a past Commodore of The Chicago Yacht Club. He was a visiting lecturer and Assistant Professor in Medill IMC in the ’90s and served on advisory boards for PR Newswire, Journal of Integrated Marketing and San Isabel Land Protection Trust.

Kurt and his wife of 62 years, Kathleen attended Marietta College where they met and wed. Kurt is survived by his son Peter and daughter Jennifer and 4 grandchildren, Cate, Graham, Emma and Ian.

Tribute provided by Peter and Jennifer Stocker. 

1980s Featured Legacies Featured Legacies Home Legacies

Valerie Boyd (BSJ85)

Photo: Valerie Boyd, the author of a critically acclaimed biography of Zora Neale Hurston, appears at a reading in D.C. in 2009. (Susan Biddle/The Washington Post)

By Emily Langer, Washington Post

Valerie Boyd, a journalist who chronicled the life of Zora Neale Hurston in a critically acclaimed biography and edited a forthcoming compilation of the journals of Alice Walker, thus illuminating African American women of letters from the Harlem Renaissance to the present day, died Feb. 12 at a hospital in Atlanta. She was 58.

The cause was pancreatic cancer, said her friend and power of attorney, Veta Goler.

Ms. Boyd spent nearly two decades as a reporter and arts editor at her hometown newspaper, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, training the journalistic eye that she would turn on Hurston in the biography that became her first major literary achievement of her own.

“Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston,” published in 2003, was the result of nearly five years of research. Ms. Boyd charted Hurston’s life from her birth in 1891 in Notasulga, Ala., to her upbringing in the all-Black town of Eatonville, Fla., through her literary activity during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and 1930s and her anthropological exploration of African American folklore, to the circumstances that led to her death in penury in 1960 in Florida, where she was buried in an unmarked grave.

“Because I am a Black Southern woman, I felt very close to Zora, as if I could paint a picture of her life almost from the inside out,” Ms. Boyd told an interviewer for the online magazine In Motion. “I wanted to give readers a sense of what it was like to be Zora, to walk in her shoes, to live inside her skin.”

Ms. Boyd’s 2003 biography of writer Zora Neale Hurston. (Scribner)
Ms. Boyd was an undergraduate at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., when she first read Hurston’s best-known work, the 1937 novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” a coming-of-age story about a Black woman named Janie Crawford.

“I was just amazed,” Ms. Boyd said, “that a book published in 1937 could speak to me so clearly and so resonantly through the decades.”

Years later, she became a regular attendee of the annual festival held in honor of Hurston in Eatonville. In 1994, she said, she attended a speech there by Robert E. Hemenway, the author of a 1977 biography of the writer.

By Ms. Boyd’s account, Hemenway surveyed the shortcomings that he said were inherent in his book as a work about a Black woman written by a White man. According to Ms. Boyd, he said that Hurston was owed a new biography, by an African American woman.

“When I heard those words, I felt it was my calling,” Ms. Boyd told an interviewer with Northwestern. “But even though it felt like something I would do, the thought of doing it was just frightening.”

She put off the task, judging herself not ready. Less than two years later, a literary agent called to ask if she might be interested in writing a biography of Hurston. “I felt like fate was calling me — and that Zora herself was calling me,” Ms. Boyd said.

Hurston had complicated the job of any future biographer, Ms. Boyd wrote, by disguising “many truths of her life in a confounding but crackable code.” In order to obtain schooling at a Baltimore high school, she reported her age as 16 when she was in fact 26. Her 1942 autobiography, “Dust Tracks on a Road,” however skillfully written, proved an unreliable account of the facts of her life.

With the passage of time, more dust, as it were, had clouded the story of Hurston’s life. It had been partially cleared by Hemenway’s book and by volumes including “Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters” collected and edited by Carla Kaplan (2002). But in “Wrapped in Rainbows,” reviewer Jake Lamar wrote in The Washington Post, Ms. Boyd produced a “scrupulously researched, gracefully written” work that will “most likely remain the definitive Hurston biography for many years to come.”

Ms. Boyd’s project was a journalistic odyssey, in which she located the few living acquaintances of Hurston and scoured the archival records of her life. But it was also an “intuitive, spiritual process,” she said.

“Sometimes,” she told the Northwestern interviewer, “it seemed as if Zora would look at me in a very approving way, and sometimes she seemed to be looking at me like, ‘Oh, please.’ And I would dutifully press delete.”

Ms. Boyd often reflected on the sisterhood of African American writers, observing that “Zora’s, Alice’s and my generations are holding hands.” Alice was Alice Walker, the author of the 1982 novel “The Color Purple,” which received the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for fiction and was adapted into a 1985 film starring Whoopi Goldberg. Walker had helped reawaken interest in Hurston with an article, “In Search of Zora Neale Hurston,” published in Ms. magazine in 1975.

Ms. Boyd happened to meet Walker during her research for the biography and said that Walker, upon learning of her work, touched her face and said, “Bless you, my child.” Some years after the publication of the Hurston biography, when Walker set out to publish her journals from the years 1965 to 2000, she selected Ms. Boyd as her partner in the endeavor.

“Gathering Blossoms Under Fire: The Journals of Alice Walker,” edited by Ms. Boyd, is slated to be published April 12, according to the publishing house Simon and Schuster.

“Valerie Boyd was one of the best people ever to live, which she did as a free being,” Walker said in a statement provided by the Joy Harris Literary Agency. “Even though illness was stalking her the past several years, she accompanied me in gathering, transcribing, and editing my journals. … This was a major feat, a huge act of love and solidarity, of sisterhood, of soul generosity and shared joy, for which she will be remembered.”

Valerie Jean Boyd was born in Atlanta on Dec. 11, 1963. Her father ran a gas station and tire shop, and her mother was a homemaker.

Ms. Boyd received a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Northwestern in 1985 and a master of fine arts in creative nonfiction writing from Goucher College in Towson, Md., in 1999.

In addition to her work at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Ms. Boyd freelanced over the years for publications including The Washington Post. She was a senior editor at the publication the Bitter Southerner. In recent years, she was a writer in residence and professor at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia

At the time of her death, according to Simon and Schuster, Ms. Boyd was at work on an anthology titled “Bigger Than Bravery: Black Resilience and Reclamation in a Time of Pandemic.” Her survivors include two brothers.

Ms. Boyd noted that, in deference to her subject, she had visited Hurston’s grave in Fort Pierce, Fla., before embarking on the biography.

“I wanted to make a connection with Zora,” Ms. Boyd told the Journal-Constitution, “so I took an offering of Florida oranges, which she loved, and some money — she never had enough money in her life — and a pack of Pall Malls.”

Just as she was leaving, she saw a black crow similar to the one that had circled over the inaugural Hurston festival in 1990. Attendees had named it “Zora.” Ms. Boyd took the sign as permission to proceed.

“I believe that it was something that I was put here to do,” she told the Orlando Sentinel in 2003. “My destiny led me to Zora.”

Home Medill News

Virtual Memorial Scheduled for Alumnus Darran Simon (MSJ04) – RSVP Link

Darran A. Simon (MSJ04) was in awe of the human spirit’s ability to persevere and endure. He was always drawn to writing about the suffering and trauma of all people, especially those who were often marginalized, overlooked, and not compassionately covered in the news.

Simon took seriously his duty to contribute to the first draft of history, methodically preserving the emotional tenor of people’s stories. He was a phenomenal journalist, colleague, friend, son and brother. He mentored high school and college students, championed volunteerism and blazed a path of excellence for all who knew him.

In celebration of a life well lived, a virtual memorial will be held on March 19, 2022 from 1 PM to 3 PM (EST). To RSVP, visit for more information.

Medill has created a new endowed scholarship in Simon’s memory. 

Simon’s career included roles reporting on minority affairs at the Miami Herald, covering education for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, as a crime reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer, as a general assignment reporter for Newsday and as a senior writer with CNN Digital in Atlanta. His most recent role was with the Washington Post, where he covered District politics and government.

“Darran was thoughtful, curious and always went out of his way for others. It’s what made him a dear friend and phenomenal person to learn alongside. He took the role of being a reporter seriously and pushed himself to be great at it,” said Jessica Rodriguez Falcon (MSJ04), a friend and classmate of Simon’s. “It’s just not something you see every day.”

Simon was unafraid to tackle difficult topics in his reporting, including covering the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and profiling the spiritual leader of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, after a brutal terrorist attack by white supremacists.

“The essence of his whole career is not forgetting about the people that news trucks have driven by after the big story has left,” said Allissa Richardson (MSJ04), another friend and classmate. “I think that it’s beautiful that he was able to do exactly what he set out to do.”

Once the scholarship fund reaches $100,000, it will provide a generous award to a talented and deserving student, each and every year, in perpetuity. Northwestern will continue to accept additional gifts to grow the scholarship in the years to come. In tribute to Simon’s commitment to thoughtful and sensitive trauma reporting, the scholarship will support students with a focus in social justice reporting.

The Darran Simon Memorial Scholarship will help address one of Medill’s greatest needs in offering support for graduate students. “Graduate scholarships are essential if we are to continue attracting top candidates to Medill,” said Medill Dean Charles Whitaker (BSJ80, MSJ81). “Darran was a supremely talented and compassionate journalist, and I can think of no better tribute to his life and work.”

Richardson said she thinks Simon would be honored and humbled by the scholarship dedication. “He would probably suggest it be named after someone else. For his incredible love of history and reading, he probably would have cited a historic person. But he is history. He is Medill history. He’s American history. He’s Black history. And I’m just so glad that he wrote down all that he cared about, and he wrote down to really speak up for other people. And that kind of thing will always outlive you, you know — the arts, our words, what’s written down, is immortal,” she said.

Gifts to the Darran Simon Memorial Scholarship may be made online (explore “Search School and Program Funds”).

Alternately, those wishing to support the fund may send a check to:
Northwestern University
Alumni Relations and Development
1201 Davis Street, Suite 1-400
Evanston, IL 60208-4410

Please make check out to Northwestern University and note the Darran Simon Memorial Scholarship in the memo or enclosure.

1950s Featured Legacies

Jack Botts (MSJ50)

Jack C. Botts, 97, died Thursday January 6th in Lincoln. He was born in Ludden, ND, to Dwight and Velcie Botts. He Attended schools in Ludden and Oakes, ND, and entered the Army Air Forces in 1943. He flew 51 missions in Europe as a radio operator in a B-17 crew based in Italy.

He enrolled in the University of Nebraska after the war and studied journalism while working at the Lincoln Journal. He was awarded membership to Sigma Delta Chi fraternity for outstanding achievement, and graduated in 1949. He then entered Northwestern University on a scholarship, where he received a master’s degree in 1950.

He married Dorris Everhart of Des Moines, IA, in 1950 and returned to the Lincoln Journal where he held several editorial positions until 1966, when he accepted a position as assistant professor at the University of Nebraska School of Journalism. He taught both writing and editing courses during his 24 years at UN-L. He became an associate professor in 1968 and a sequence head in 1969. He was made full professor in 1973 and a member of the graduate faculty in 1975. He managed and taught the Midwest division of an editing internship program for the Newspaper Fund from 1968 to 1976.

He received the Bereuter Distinguished Teaching Award in 1984, and became a member of the UN-L Teaching Council. In 1979 he was made chairman of the News-Editorial Department. He was a member of the University’s Task Force on Undergraduate Education, the Writing Coordinating Committee, the Honorary Degree Committee and the Scholarships Committee. In 1987 he was appointed a Distinguished College Professor and was named the Fred and Gladys Seaton Professor of journalism. In 1987 he was named the Distinguished Journalist of the year by the Kappa Tau Alpha scholarship society. He retired from the university in 1990.

He authored six books after retiring: 2 autobiographies, 3 novels, and a handbook for news editors. He was a humanist, a Democrat and a conservationist, a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Delta Chi, Kappa Tau Alpha, the Associated Press Managing Editors and the Nebraska Writers Guild.

He is survived by three children and their spouses: Chris and Alana Botts, Terry and Melanie Menzie and Mike and René Botts, all of Lincoln; two grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. A son, Jeff died in 2010, and a brother, John, died in 2012. His wife, Dorris, died in April, 2017. A granddaughter, Teresa, died in 2018.

1980s Featured Legacies Featured Legacies Home Legacies Uncategorized

Marshall Sella (MSJ88)

The Funny Man
by John Rasmus

Reprinted from Outside Magazine article published Jan. 11, 2022

Marshall Sella started as an intern at Outside in Chicago in 1988, and he went on to a successful career as a magazine writer in New York. His friends and former colleagues will remember him as much for his infectious humor and generous spirit. Here, his editor recalls the impact a young man had on a magazine still finding its voice.

Late one afternoon in the Chicago offices of Outside, I detected some consternation from down the hall, a glitch in the matrix. It was June 1990, and the new issue had just arrived. Marshall Sella, one of our junior editors, came to the door, clearly the designated bearer of bad news. None of the senior editors were going to take responsibility for this one.

“J.R.,” he said, “I’ve got something unfortunate to tell you.” In one of our recent travel packages, he reminded me, we’d published a photo of Earth taken from space, and somehow it had been reversed, making the enormous island nation of Madagascar appear to be off the west coast of Africa—which, of course, it is not. Embarrassing enough.

We’d printed a clever but tortured correction, but now, two months later, someone had noticed that we—i.e., Marshall—had apologized for “showing Madagascar to the east of Africa,” which is where, in fact, Madagascar is. So, we’d botched the photo, then botched the correction, and now we’d have to own up to that, too. In my mind, that would be three tainted issues we couldn’t submit for the National Magazine Awards, at least not for, you know, General Excellence. A steep price for “clever.”

Marshall gamely attempted to explain the unforced error. It had something to do with confusing the east coast of Africa and the west coast of Madagascar, I don’t remember the details, but I do recall his fascinating combination of candor, self-pity, remorse, growing acceptance, and … suddenly, redemption. His face brightened.

“Or maybe,” he offered, “we didn’t really get it wrong. Madagascar is to the east of Africa! Maybe we don’t need to apologize for the apology we didn’t need to make!” This, at least, was the kernel of a reason not to do anything, which I liked. But now he was thinking bigger—about how he could turn this insight into an even more clever meta correction. “Let me see what I can do,” he said, and scooted back to his office.

Marshall Sella, who died unexpectedly in December at 60, still so young, was as responsible as anyone for shaping the Chicago-era vibe of Outside. Founder Lorenzo Burke was the fearless captain of our ship. Brash storytellers like Tim Cahill, writer-adventurers like David Roberts, literary hotshots like David Quammen and his Montana neighbor E. Jean Carroll—they set the bar early and high. But the supporting cast, the editorial crew—younger, less experienced, and, as it turned out, extremely talented—helped shape Outside’s personality and its voice, and nobody more than Marshall. That voice was warm but sly, smart, and never cliquish. If there was a joke involved (and there usually was), you, the reader, were in on it.

Marshall joined us in 1988 as a grad school intern from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, making an impression in his Eastern European military coat and English walking boots. But he was also the midwestern kid from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, who’d had the lead part in a Milwaukee Players production of Sherlock Holmes. (Maybe that’s where he got those walking boots.) He’d even sung a bit. In any case, he came ready to entertain, in print and around the office.

In those days all the editors, myself included, were works in progress, feeling a bit disconnected from the great outdoor world we covered from our urban outpost at Clark and Division. We had high aspirations for the magazine, we didn’t always meet them, and office life could get a little stressful. I shamefully cop to the label of being “demanding,” at times perhaps borderline insufferable. In any case, we needed all the fake-it-till-you-make-it energy and bravado we could muster, which Marshall supplied, every day, with his warm smirk, his sophisticated, Spy-influenced style, and his near hourly outbursts of laughter that I could hear from my desk.

After graduating, he came on full time and started editing product and travel packages and sidebars, cooking up quizzes, and writing house copy. You could discern his hand in everything from the table of contents to the back page Parting Shot. He worked his captions and short intros to insane, often hilarious precision. It’s easy to see how, by the tenth draft of that Madagascar correction, he’d have utterly confused himself.

Marshall’s office banter was so sharp and came so fast that “he raised everybody’s game just trying to keep up with him,” remembers his fellow intern and future author Dan Coyle. “He had an ability to make other people their funniest, happiest selves.”

A few days ago, more than a dozen of his colleagues got together on a Google call to remember Marshall, and I learned a few new things. He gave fellow editors nicknames like Cashew Head and performed droll impressions of our managing editor, Mark Bryant, and the actor James Mason—if Mason were a slowly sizzling piece of bacon. He claimed that Robert De Niro, with every movie he appeared in, always had a scene where he stomped on someone’s head. He would imitate that, too, with gusto. On the other hand, Marshall’s was the office you went to when you needed to have a little cry.

When Rob Story, a prominent ski writer and another intern from the early days, got married in Telluride, Colorado, Marshall was one of his groomsmen. Dressed in his tuxedo on the big day, and sensing the absurdity of his attire in the Old West mining town, Rob remembers, Marshall went up to the hotel clerk and asked, “Could you tell me if there’s a nice clean hiking trail nearby?”

He was the brother—younger, older, it didn’t matter—we were drawn to and, honestly, adored. By definition, then, we were kind of a family, and he was the star.

“I think everyone had a crush on him,” his friend and colleague Laura Hohnhold said. “All of us.”

Marshall left Outside in 1991 to be a full-time freelancer, then moved to New York in 1993. He slowly became a gravitational force again, writing for New York, GQ, Premiere, Elle, The New York Times Magazine. His friend Will Dana, the former editor of Rolling Stone, recalls him attracting crowds of both sexes at downtown writers’ parties. The staff at Outside, which moved to Santa Fe in 1994, were thrilled when he covered the national cheerleading championships for the first issue of Women Outside.

Marshall’s superpower, everyone seems to agree, was his ability to fiercely connect with and observe people, capture their quirks and tells, and shape those insights into powerful stories, even with only scraps to work with. His moving Times Magazine article “Missing,” published just weeks after 9/11, told the stories of victims through the flyers their loved ones posted all over the city. He profiled Sister Wendy, a British nun and art historian turned wildly popular PBS star, and was one of the very first to capture the populist essence and power of a new media outlet called Fox News. Its boss, the notorious Roger Ailes, was “a pugnacious and jokey man,” Marshall wrote. “His pale blue eyes regard you suspiciously until you’ve spent a lot of time together, and half-suspiciously after that.”

Mark Adams, an old friend and author himself, admired Marshall’s ability to drop himself into stories—subtly and unobtrusively, but to important effect. Not only was he connecting and explaining his subject, but he turned and connected to you, revealing himself along the way. Adams points to Marshall’s 2013 story for GQ about the disgraced New York pol Anthony Weiner.

“Writing a true profile is a genuinely weird endeavor,” Marshall confesses in the middle of that piece. “It’s like being in love without the love: You want to know every little thing about the subject. You will follow them anywhere, always wondering what they’re thinking or why they move their hands like that. You think about them when they are not around. During the reporting phase, if you’re any good at what you do, you’re a little bit insane. But you get time to cool off later: take the real measure, look at the experience from a distance.”

That superpower, like superpowers do, also cost him. His older sister, Claire Meyer, remembers watching a post-9/11 episode of Ric Burns’s PBS series on New York City, which included a brief clip of Marshall reporting “Missing.” “He’s holding one of those flyers, looking at the photo of a victim,” she says, “absorbing the loss not only of an individual, but in its totality.” She remembers watching her brother put his hands to his face, stricken.

By the early 2000s, Marshall had more magazine work than he could handle. According to Dana, “Every editor he worked with wanted to work with him again.” Each piece needed to be perfect and on time, and he expected his editors to get what he was trying to do. Later in his career, his friends say, he’d decide if he wanted to work with someone based on whether he thought they’d cut his jokes.

Marshall’s only thwarted ambition, Adams and others say, was to become a successful humorist, a Will Rogers type or a comedy writer for Letterman. That combination of high-wire wit and a big stage would have been worthy of his talents. He had to settle for being one of the best magazine writers of his generation.

Finally, he was also a great and thoughtful friend. Adams, an early riser, would get morning texts from night-owl Marshall wrapping up his workday at 5 a.m. Long before Facebook, Adams remembers, “Marshall would find out your birthday and call or send you an email every year.” He was close to his family back in Milwaukee—“he was the coolest uncle in the world, my role model,” his nephew, John Mörk, told me—and kept in touch with his Outside family. We all got one of those birthday greetings every year.

One of the nice things about being around for the early days of a magazine, or any organization, is that you have a chance to set a tone, a sensibility. If it works, it can carry on, like a regional accent, for generations. Reading Outside today, I hear Marshall’s voice still coming through from a group of smart, young, ambitious editors and writers who were likely toddlers when Marshall was crafting that sound, testing it, taking it to the next level.

Not long before he left Outside and Chicago, Marshall wrote what turned out to be a fitting send-off, for the magazine’s 15th anniversary issue. Titled “Atlas Shrugged,” the short piece captured our early days perfectly: self-aware, not afraid to fail, ready to delight.

“Magazine editing, like faith and seismic shifts, can move mountains,” he wrote. “And over the years, Outside has moved a few of them—not to mention the odd rainforest, country, and ocean.” His piece recounted the magazine’s most boneheaded location muffs and, in a final meta touch, named his Madagascar double doink “Outside’s most ambitious gaffe of all time.”

“No one is fired for the incident,” he wrote about that day in my office, “though the man responsible for the ‘correction’ is later forced to write an article about geographic errors for Outside’s 15th anniversary issue.”

Well done, Marshall.

Home My Medill Story

Medill or bust: My journey to becoming a storyteller

By Darren Zancan (MSJ12)

During the sixth grade, my class had the opportunity to write and submit a story to the Young Authors’ contest. While most of my class was writing about fictional characters, I focused on real life experiences. Up to that point I had already lost several people – one being my childhood best friend to a tragic accident.

Chicago Bulls’ star Michael Jordan had just released his autobiography, which inspired me to follow suit. My story was selected to move on in the competition, and during the award ceremony a publisher approached me. She wanted to publish my piece. I looked at my mom, looked back at the publisher and said no. Writing was never about an award, it was about telling a story.Darren Zancan looking up.

At that moment, I knew what I wanted to do in life – be a storyteller.
My dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2009. Up to that point, I had essentially wasted away most of my life, never taking anything – except for writing – seriously. I had dropped in and out of college many times. In one of our last conversations, I looked at him and said I was tired of failing. Losing my dad pushed me to live life to the fullest, and I looked at this as a second chance in life.

I went back to that moment in sixth grade and knew what needed to be done – finish my degree. I ended up graduating with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from EKU. In the two years at EKU, I was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper, president of the EKU Society of Professional Journalists chapter, and was selected as the 2011 commencement speaker. My goals were bigger than just a bachelor’s degree. Reggie Beehner, my undergrad advisor at the time, is a Medill graduate. Almost weekly, I expressed to Reggie my dream was to attend Northwestern, be a storyteller, and graduate from Medill.

I remember going to dinner with my mom around the same time to fill her in on my future goals. She looked at me and said, “What’s your backup option? And your third option?”

Northwestern. And Northwestern. It was Medill or bust.

A few months later – after what felt like years – I called my mom. I started the conversation with, “Do you own anything that’s purple and black?” I could tell my mom was initially confused. After a few seconds, she screamed in pure joy. The dots connected – I was a Medill master’s student (A big thank you to Donna Wang Su).

I commuted every day from Northwest Indiana to Evanston or the newsroom on Clark Street. My professor, Susan Chandler, was walking with me to the train station after class one day, and she asked why being at Medill meant so much to me. It was more than an education for me. I have always lived by the moniker that if you believe it, you can achieve it. Dreams are meant to become accomplishments. In this life we can be difference makers. If I learned from the best, I could take that and pass it on to the generations after me. Medill is a difference maker, and that is what I told her.Darren Zancan at his production studio.

Medill continues to be a difference maker in my life. At its core, Medill thrives because of the faculty and staff that have paved the way since the school’s inception. The passion runs deep, which is something I witnessed from the moment I walked into Fisk Hall. Yes, these professors and editors laid a solid foundation (along with striving to never get a Medill F), but it was always more than that. The intrinsic value to push us, make us better human beings, curious truth seekers, and unique storytellers stands above all.

Most importantly, they cared.

They cared not because they had to, but because they wanted us to go out into the world and strive to be the best at what we do.
Because of Northwestern and Medill, I’ve accomplished more than I could have ever imagined. Four days after graduating, I started teaching video, sports reporting, and journalism at three colleges and universities. I witnessed firsthand professors like Jim Distasio, Joe Mathewson, and so many others invest in us. I wanted to keep the ball rolling and do my best to inspire the next generation of storytellers. Heck, I am just a few months away from graduating with my doctoral degree.

While teaching, I was simultaneously planning something more; something deeper and creative. In 2013, I founded DMZ Productions, a video production company. The inspiration came from Distasio, my first Medill professor. The way he told stories through a camera lens was the push in the direction I craved. Years later, a company thatDarren Zancan teaching. started with one now has a full staff. We’ve created corporate videos for universities and companies across the country, and in 2021, we introduced a new division to the company – DMZ Films. During that expansion, we penned a Christmas full-length feature screenplay, wrote, and started filming a workplace comedy called “The Home,” developed “History Alive,” a historical/paranormal docuseries, and just finished a documentary about The Kentucky Theatre called “The Heartbeat of Downtown.”

Recently, I’ve been in a bit of a creative rut. Maybe a little stuck. I felt as if I needed some sort of sign that things would open up. I looked at social media and saw a memory Jan. 2, 2012. It was my first official day as a Medill student. I looked at my watch and chuckled. It was Jan. 2, 2022, exactly 10 years later to the day. It was the sign I needed. I hopped in my car and made my way to campus for the first time in seven years.

I meticulously made my way up to every floor, remembering very specific events during my time at Medill. I stopped at Mike Greenberg’s Hall of Achievement photo and thought back to the sixth grade. In those few moments I noticed something. I was smiling. I felt that energy starting to flow through my veins. The rush, the excitement, and imagined such a wide-open future in front of me.

I sat on the steps in Fisk Hall, closed my eyes and let it soak in. I no longer felt like the person who worried about failing. I grew up wanting to be a storyteller, and because of Medill, the dream is becoming a reality.

Medill laid the pathway for my future.

Home My Medill Story

Next Avenue’s Managing Editor Richard Eisenberg (BSJ78) Says Goodbye — But Not Farewell

Reprinted with permission from Next Avenue. Photo credit: Richard Eisenberg 

Reflections on a 10-year run, plus parting advice from what I learned as the site’s Money and Work & Purpose channels editor

by Richard Eisenberg

After a wonderful lunch in New York City a few weeks ago with Next Avenue writers Kerry Hannon and Chris Farrell, I needed to buy a bus ticket for the trip home to New Jersey. The ticket booth clerk had posted a sign reading “Today Is My Last Day Before Retirement” and was wearing an “I’m Retired” sash, along with a huge smile. I’m about to retire, too (from my job as Next Avenue’s managing editor and editor of the site’s Money & Policy and Work & Purpose channels). Although I don’t have a sash, I did want to share a few reflections and advice as I sashay out.

Although it may seem to some Next Avenue readers that our site has been around forever, truth is that my fellow launch team members started working here just over 10 years ago — in November 2011. I was brought on as editor of the site’s Money and Work & Purpose channels.

Our small team — then split mostly between St. Paul, Minn., and the New York City area — tinkered quietly for six months, mostly to figure out what Next Avenue would be; the site went live in May 2012.

How Next Avenue Started
The idea for this journalism nonprofit was hatched by two visionaries at Twin Cities PBS (TPT): the station’s then-CEO Jim Pagliarini and his Next Avenue co-founder Judy Diaz. I was told they felt PBS should do something for boomers (then roughly 50 to 65) the way it had created “Sesame Street” for kids.

They felt PBS should do something for boomers (then roughly 50 to 65) the way it had created “Sesame Street” for kids.

I’d been a personal finance writer and editor for decades (Money, Yahoo!, Good Housekeeping, CBS MoneyWatch) and was 55 in 2011, so I felt the job was a perfect match. I was right. Over the years, my job broadened and I also became Next Avenue’s managing editor and copy editor. At a small-budget journalism nonprofit with big ideas and plans, you often wear several hats.

These days, our audience now includes Generation X, since some of them are 50-plus, too.

For the personal finance and career channels at Next Avenue, I’ve written pieces that were highly personal (“Sorry, Nobody Wants Your Parents’ Stuff” after my father died), exclusive (parts of our annual Influencers in Aging list) global (how the oldest people in the world make their money last) and arcane (everything you didn’t want to know about backdoor Roth IRA conversions). I’ve edited pieces on topics ranging from starting a business after 50 to the importance of end-of-life financial planning, too.

After turning 65 in July and realizing I was nearing my 10-year anniversary at Next Avenue, I thought the time was right to retire. At Next Avenue, we really prefer not to use that word, though, because it connotes the 1950s version of no-work/all leisure. Instead, we talk about “unretiring” — a term popularized by Chris Farrell’s 2016 book, “Unretirement.”

Why I’m Retiring Now
My decision wasn’t about the pandemic or about The Great Resignation. And I’m ignoring The Motley Fool article I just read, “3 Reasons Why 2022 May Be a Bad Year to Retire.”

I’ve just decided it’s time for me to begin the journey on my next avenue, even if, in the words of the late Stephen Sondheim, “Everybody Says Don’t.”

My retirement will be what Bruce Feiler, author of “Life Is in the Transitions,” calls one of the biggest transitions people go through. When I interviewed him for Next Avenue about his intriguing book, he told me there are three phases of transitions: The Long Goodbye, The Messy Middle and The New Beginning.

I’m now at the Long Goodbye stage, where, Feiler says, “you say goodbye to a life that is not coming back.” I’m hoping to zip through The Messy Middle (where you figure out the new transition) and quickly head into The New Beginning where, as Feiler explains, “you are unveiling your new self. It’s time to update your story and tell other people.”

Here’s how I see my New Beginning: Freelancing for Next Avenue and other sites; continuing to write book reviews for People and co-hosting the “Friends Talk Money” podcast; volunteering; mentoring; traveling with my wife and seeing our L.A.-based sons Aaron and Will and their wives (COVID-19 permitting), learning pickleball (I think it’s the law now, isn’t it?) and seeing what else comes my way — as well as what strikes my fancy.

I realize I’m enormously fortunate to be able to choose my retirement date; many others can’t, due to financial or health circumstances.

I know that, along with some boomers in their mid-60s, I’m in the last generation who’ll receive one or more employer pensions; in my case, I’ll receive two: from years working at what was once Time Inc., and Hearst.

What I Did to Help Make Retirement Possible
Following the advice I’ve offered to readers for years, I saved furiously for college bills through 529 savings accounts, mutual funds and U.S. savings bonds; I have socked away money diligently for retirement since my 20s, in 401(k)s and self-employment retirement plans; been serious about keeping an emergency savings fund; paid off our mortgage; lived pretty frugally (my wife and I drive 2010 and 2012 Mazdas, also paid off), and been cautious about debt.

My traditional Medicare, Medigap and Medicare Part D prescription drug plans will take effect in January (that’s been a hassle). I expect to delay claiming Social Security until I’m 67, taking advantage of the larger benefits I’ll receive by postponing them.

My health is mostly good, with one gigantic caveat: my kidneys are pretty lousy, due to decades with diabetes. It’s possible that I’ll eventually need a kidney transplant or dialysis, but I’m doing my best to avoid either.

My late mother had dementia and I’d be less than honest if I didn’t say that I worry I will get it one day, too. Here, I’m following the advice Next Avenue has offered — trying to stay healthy, challenging myself mentally, continuing to engage with others, working part-time and volunteering. But I also have a long-term care insurance policy, just in case, and hope the insurer will pay up if it comes to that; not all do.

Speaking of advice, I couldn’t conclude this farewell address without sharing a few personal finance and career tips for people in their 50s and 60s that I’ve picked up at Next Avenue:

Save for retirement and for emergencies. I won’t belabor this, since you hear it all the time from personal finance writers. I know it isn’t easy, and sometimes isn’t possible. But the more you can put money aside today, the more you’ll thank yourself tomorrow — whether that’s in six months or in six years.

Consult a financial adviser and an estate lawyer. My wife and I met with one financial planner when our sons were small, for tips on paying their future tuition bills (the takeaway: fund a 529 college savings plan and start when your kids are young if you can).

A few years ago, we started working with a fee-only, fiduciary Certified Financial Planner who has taken a more holistic look at our finances, offering wise counsel and recommendations on investing, insurance, taxes and debt.

We also hired an estate lawyer to ensure our final wishes will be met; that was no fun and took too much time and money, but it needed to get done.

Get lucky if you can — and make your luck, too. My luck was finding a wonderful partner in my wife Liz (married 36 years), having two fantastic, loving sons and living during years when both the stock market and housing markets soared. There were also years when both markets crashed, but I didn’t panic and waited them out.

I’d say I made my luck in my career.

After getting a journalism degree at Northwestern University and landing a job as a fact-checker at Money, I worked hard and learned all I could to allow me to move up the ranks and then land jobs at other media outlets, ultimately winding up at Next Avenue.

Part of my ability to get these jobs, I think, was networking frequently — on LinkedIn, through phone calls, emails and meet-ups — to be in the right place with the right skills at the right times.

I’ve written often, and published Next Avenue articles by experts like Nancy Collamer, about how age discrimination by employers can make it difficult for people in their 50s and 60s to get hired. I’ll always be grateful to Yahoo! for hiring me at 53 (a recruiter found my LinkedIn profile) and for TPT for taking me on at 55 (a freelancer who’d written for me told me about the job).

Brilliant experts — from AgeWave’s Ken Dychtwald to’s Marc Freedman to authorities on elders Chip Conley and Bob Blancato to retirement gurus such as WISER’s Cindy Hounsell and Transamerica’s Catherine Collinson (all Next Avenue Influencers in Aging) — have helped let me keep my Next Avenue job by sharing their wisdom in articles I’ve written, assigned and edited.

I’m grateful, too, to Next Avenue’s fabulous freelance writers and especially to my collegial Next Avenue colleagues, current and former, who have made Next Avenue the leader in our field — including Kristi McKinney, Julie Pfitzinger, Kathy Ritchie, Emily Skoblik-Diallo, Sabrina Crews, Megan Germundson, Bryce Kirchoff, Sue Campbell, Shayla Thiel Stern, Donna Sapolin, Emily Gurnon, Liza Hogan, Susan Donley, Grace Birnstengel and Colleen Wilson.

In one of my favorite Sondheim tunes, the star of “Company” belts out the song “Marry Me a Little” saying: “I’m ready! I’m ready now!”

Today’s my last day at Next Avenue. Retirement: I’m ready!

1960s Featured Legacies Legacies

David Otto (MSJ62)

David M “Dave” Otto, 83, passed away peacefully, November 26, 2021, at a local hospital in Green Bay, Wisc. Born February 18, 1938, to Carl and Helen (Williams) Otto in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. Graduated from Lincoln High School in 1956 and Ripon College in 1960 with a BA degree in Political Science. Dave was Phi Beta Kappa and earned an MSJ from Medill in 1962.

Dave enlisted in the Army reserve and served for 6 years.

He joined the Green Bay Press-Gazette on January 1, 1962, the beginning of a 40-year career as a reporter. He covered the courthouse for 5 years, twice earning Gavel Awards from the American Bar Association. He was the only Press-Gazette writer to win this award. The rest of his career was as the Press-Gazette Outdoors Writer. His weekly column, Plugs & Slugs, was very popular, as was his annual Report from the Lake. Among his many awards were the Scripps Howard Award for conservation writing, and the Gordon MacQuarrie Award from the Wisconsin Academy of Arts and Sciences.He was a co-founder and past president of the Wisconsin Outdoor Communications Association. He also wrote numerous free-lance stories for magazines like Wisconsin Sportsman and Outdoor Life.

He was a member of First United Methodist Church for over 50 years, volunteering in many ways. He was a co-founder of the church’s Food Pantry, now called the Goodwill Place. After retiring in 1998, he volunteered for 15 years at Howe School, working with 4th and 5th graders on their reading and writing. He was known by students and staff alike as Mister Dave.

He married Karen Van Epps in 1962 in Weyauwega, WI. He married Barbara O’Leary on May 23, 1987 on the shores of Green Bay at Peninsula State Park in Door County.

He is survived by his wife and his 3 children – Jon (Laurie) Otto of Lake Mills, WI; Christine (Brian) Frye of Federal Way, WI; and Kathryn (Douglas) McLeod of Middleton, WI; and grandsons Logan and Davis Otto, David Frye, and Jon (JJ) McLeod.

A memorial service is being planned for the spring of 2022 and will be announced by the family. Memorials in David’s name may be directed to First United Methodist Church Goodwill Food Pantry.

Reprinted from the Green Bay Press-Gazette