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Medill New Grad Happy Hour in NYC July 17 in Midtown

All alumni are welcome to attend our annual welcome party for the June Medill graduates who have relocated to the NYC area.

hurleys patio
Photo courtesy of Time Out.

Admission is free but RSVP is required.


1980s Featured Legacies Home Home

Steve Albini (BSJ85)

Reprinted from
Photo credit: Casey Mitchell

Steve Albini, an icon of indie rock as both a producer and performer, died on Tuesday, May 7, of a heart attack, staff at his recording studio, Electrical Audio, confirmed to Pitchfork. As well as fronting underground rock lynchpins including Shellac and Big Black, Albini was a legend of the recording studio, though he preferred the term “engineer” to “producer.” He recorded Nirvana’s In Utero, Pixies’ Surfer Rosa, PJ Harvey’s Rid of Me, and countless more classic albums, and remained an outspoken critic of exploitative music industry practices until his final years. Shellac were preparing to tour their first album in a decade, To All Trains, which is scheduled for release next week. Steve Albini was 61 years old.

Despite his insistence that he would work with any artist who paid his fee, Albini’s catalog as a self-described audio engineer encompasses a swath of alternative rock that is practically a genre unto itself. After early work on Surfer Rosa, Slint’s Tweez, and the Breeders’ Pod, he became synonymous with brutal, live-sounding analog production that carried palpable raw energy. His unparalleled résumé in the late 1980s and 1990s includes the Jesus Lizard’s influential early albums, the Wedding Present’s Seamonsters, Brainiac’s Hissing Prigs in Static Couture, and records by Low, Dirty Three, Helmet, Boss Hog, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Hum, Superchunk, and dozens more. His influence rang through to the next generations of rock, punk, and metal at home and abroad, many of whom he went on to produce—the likes of Mogwai, Mclusky, Cloud Nothings, Mono, Ty Segall, and Sunn O))). He also recorded enduring greats of the singer-songwriter canon: Joanna Newsom’s Ys, Nina Nastasia’s early records, and much of the Jason Molina catalog among them.

Albini was born in Pasadena, California, and lived a peripatetic childhood before his family settled in Missoula, Montana. As a teenager, his discovery of Ramones transformed what he described, to Jeremy Gordon for The Guardian, as a “normal Montana childhood” into an altogether wilder entity. In the subsequent years, while studying journalism in Illinois, he was drawn into the Chicago punk scene that his music would come to both defy and define. Albini spent his days at the record store Wax Trax, buying every record that “looked interesting” and talking to “everybody with a funny haircut,” he told NPR.

“It was an extremely active, very fertile scene where everybody was participating on every level,” Albini said of Chicago’s music scene. “The community that I joined when I came to Chicago enabled me to continue on with a life in music. I didn’t do this by myself. I did this as a participant in a scene, in a community, in a culture, and when I see somebody extracting from that rather than participating in it as a peer, it makes me think less of that person.… My participation in all of this is going to come to an end at some point. The only thing that I can say for myself is that, along the way, it was a cool thing that I participated in, and on the way out, I want to make sure that I don’t take it with me.”

He began recording as Big Black in the early 1980s, channeling antisocial, sometimes violent themes through buzzsaw riffs and histrionic barks, grunts, and whelps, at first backed only by a drum machine (which remained a constant, pounding presence) and soon joined by Naked Raygun’s Jeff Pezzati and Santiago Durango; Dave Riley replaced Pezzati on bass for the band’s two landmark studio albums, Atomizer and Songs About Fucking. In his spare time, Albini would pen screeds in the 1980s zine Matter, admonishing bands in neighboring scenes and cementing the firebrand reputation that established him as an eminent rock grouch and refusenik.

After Big Black, Albini formed the short-lived Rapeman—a name he came to regret, despite the sardonic intent—before founding Shellac in the early 1990s, with Bob Weston and Todd Trainer. After a string of EPs through his longtime home of Touch and Go and Drag City, the band extensively toured (including an all-but-residency at Primavera Sound, the only music festival Albini was happy to play) and released five beloved albums: 1994’s At Action Park, 1998’s Terraform, 2000’s 1000 Hurts, 2007’s Excellent Italian Greyhound, and 2014’s Dude Incredible.

Albini has long been admired for sticking to his principles and questioning music industry standards, especially in the recording studio. He never took royalties from records on which he worked—including Nirvana’s In Utero, which has sold over 15 million copies—despite that being industry custom, and he kept his day rates low, especially for a producer with his pedigree. At Electrical Audio, his recording studio where he and staff members helped lay bricks in the construction process, Albini was famous for handing artists a yellow legal pad on the first day and instructing them to map out a written description of every song they were going to record. This was his way of avoiding future miscommunications and guaranteeing that artists maximized the in-studio time for which they paid. “The recording part is the part that matters to me—that I’m making a document that records a piece of our culture, the life’s work of the musicians that are hiring me,” he told The Guardian. “I take that part very seriously. I want the music to outlive all of us.”

Several bands have recounted experiences when Albini was behind the board reading a book or playing Scrabble during their recording sessions. As Albini explained it, this method helped keep his senses sharp and widened his perspective. “When I first started making records I would sit in front of the console concentrating on the music every second. I found out the hard way that I tended to fiddle with things unnecessarily and records ended up sounding tweaked and weird. I developed a couple of techniques to avoid this,” he explained in a Reddit AMA. “This has proven to be a really good threshold, so that if anything sounds weird or someone says something you immediately give it your full attention and your concentration hasn’t been ruined by staring at the speakers and straining all day.”

Throughout his career, Albini courted controversy through provocative band names (Rapeman, Run N***er Run), song titles ( “Pray I Don’t Kill You F***ot,” “My Black Ass”), and offhand statements (“I want to strangle Odd Future”). While he refused to apologize for his choice in names and jokes, in Michael Azerrad’s 2001 book Our Band Could Be Your Life, Albini made it clear that he believed his real stances on race, gender, LGBTQ rights, and politics were obvious. “I have less respect for the man who bullies his girlfriend and calls her ‘Ms’ than a guy who treats women reasonably and respectfully and calls them ‘Yo! Bitch,’” Albini told Azerrad. “The point of all this is to change the way you live your life, not the way you speak.”

Later in life, however, Albini repeatedly apologized for his past controversies, realizing that intent and moral clarity went only so far. “A lot of things I said and did from an ignorant position of comfort and privilege are clearly awful and I regret them. It’s nobody’s obligation to overlook that, and I do feel an obligation to redeem myself,” Albini wrote on X in 2021. “If anything, we were trying to underscore the banality, the everyday nonchalance toward our common history with the atrocious, all while laboring under the tacit *mistaken* notion that things were getting better. I’m overdue for a conversation about my role in inspiring ‘edgelord’ shit. Believe me, I’ve met my share of punishers at gigs and I sympathize with anybody who isn’t me but still had to suffer them.” He talked in depth about his regrets with The Guardian, MEL Magazine, and others.

Amid all of his ongoing work, Albini was a remarkable poker player. In 2022, he won a World Series of Poker gold bracelet after beating 773 other players in the $1,500 entry H.O.R.S.E. competition for a huge prize of $196,089. While most players dressed in button-up shirts and plain tees, Albini wore a furry, white hat shaped like a bear and a red Jack O’ Nuts shirt, saying the Athens noise-rock musicians “bring me luck.” He won another WSOP gold bracelet in 2018 for beating 310 players in seven card stud to the tune of $105,629. Back then, he was wearing a Cocaine Piss shirt during the big win. He had a massive grin on his face in the photos documenting both wins.

When asked how his career would be regarded if he ever retired, Albini told The Guardian, “I don’t give a shit. I’m doing it, and that’s what matters to me—the fact that I get to keep doing it. That’s the whole basis of it. I was doing it yesterday, and I’m gonna do it tomorrow, and I’m gonna carry on doing it.”


Votes of Confidence: A Young Person’s Guide to American Elections

Jeff Fleischer (MSJ03)

Every four years, coverage of the presidential election turns into a horse-race story about who’s leading the polls and who said what when. Social media and online news have made it easier to spread false information (even by accident) and harder to know what’s accurate. It can be difficult to get good information about how the election process actually works, why it matters, or how you can get involved. Civics education and information about how our government functions is necessary whether you’re a longtime voter or a soon-to-be voter. This newly revised edition includes statistics and anecdotes from recent elections alongside straightforward, nonpartisan analysis and explanation. Author Jeff Fleischer uses a fun, casual voice and real-world examples to provide an essential resource that will remain relevant long after the next president is elected.


Bylines and Blessings

Judy Rosenfeld Gruen (MSJ86)

What happens when career ambition begins to clash with a commitment to religious and personal values? In “Bylines and Blessings,” award-winning author Judy Gruen shares how she resolved these two seemingly conflicting drives.

As a young, secular woman determined to succeed as a writer, she learns to turn rejection and obstacles into steps toward professional excellence. Along the way, she also becomes a powerful voice for traditional Jewish values, understanding that words create worlds. Discovering the surprising impact of her writing on readers of all ages and across many faiths, she ultimately finds the blessings in the bylines.

This heartfelt, compelling memoir traces Gruen’s path in building not only a career but a purposeful life. Filled with humor and depth, this book will feel like having a heart-to-heart talk with an old friend.

“A perceptive memoir, written with both boldness and restraint.” –Kirkus


Doorman Wanted – A Novel

Glenn Miller (MSJ90)

Henry Franken has a problem with money – he has too much of it. When his unprincipled father dies, thirty-three-year-old Henry inherits a massive estate, including an Upper East Side residential building. He must confront the reality of his new financial status, directly conflicting with his well-honed identity as a “progressive liberal.” When he shows up to collect the keys to his father’s building, he notices a sign: “Doorman Wanted.” Seeing a chance to stave off the complexities of his inheritance, Henry applies for the position under a pseudonym… and gets it.

Now, no one in the building knows that Doorman “Franklin Hanratty” is the building’s new mysterious owner. Through interactions with residents and the homeless outside his door, Henry develops from an idealistic young person avoiding the demands of his fortune, into a man who accepts the opportunity to direct that wealth toward a broader good.
“…a delightful, meaningful, and important book that belongs on the top shelf of any library.” — Greg Fields, author of Through the Waters and the Wild.

More News

Clive Humby OBE is the recipient of the 2024 Don Schultz Award

The award is named for long-time Medill Professor Don Schultz who played a pivotal role in creating the field of Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) and establishing the IMC department at Medill in the early 1990s.

Clive Humby OBE is the recipient of the 2024 Don Schultz award for Innovation in Teaching, Theory and Practice of Integrated Marketing Communications.

Humby is a visiting professor of data science at the University of Sheffield in England. He has been at the forefront of innovation with consumer data and today he advises a wide range of businesses and governments on data strategy, privacy and application of data to business processes.

Humby co-authored “Scoring Points” in 2003, which tells the early story of Tesco Clubcard and has become a standard text in many schools. He is a patron of the Sir Isaac Newton Institute of Mathematics in Cambridge where he has worked on multiple projects with leading global academics to explore ways of anonymizing and masking big data.

“I’m deeply honored to receive this recognition,” said Humby who knew Schultz. “Putting IMC learnings into practice has been a hallmark of my career.”

The award is named for long-time Medill Professor Don Schultz who played a pivotal role in creating the field of Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) and establishing the IMC department at Medill in the early 1990s. Medill was the first school to offer a graduate degree in Integrated Marketing Communications in the United States. Schultz is regarded internationally as the “father of IMC.” He died in 2020.

“It’s a delight for Medill to honor those who carry on the work begun by Don Schultz at Medill,” said Medill Dean Charles Whitaker. “Clive’s research and teaching help elevate IMC around the world and we look forward to welcoming him to campus.”

Home Medill News

Medill Launches Continued Learning with April Course in New York City

Medill is moving into new continued learning programs open to all the school’s alumni.

Designed as advanced professional development, Medill’s continued learning program will help those looking to gain new, relevant, and applicable industry insights and knowledge, refresh their skillset, and connect with other professionals. The courses will be taught by Medill faculty.

“We’ve heard the desires of our alumni to continue to learn from Medill well beyond their graduation,” said Medill Dean Charles Whitaker. “We are excited to launch our program with the goal of engaging our alums around the world.”

The courses will be held throughout the year in different cities, beginning with a course called “The Art and Science of Customer Experience Design” in New York City’s famed Meatpacking District on Saturday, March 23.

After a morning session on the making and marketing of the Meatpacking District and building customer personas from marketplace data, participants will take to the cobblestone streets of the neighborhood to observe how brands are engaging their customers with experiences that go beyond their core product offering and to hear from brand executives about how customer experiences impact business outcomes.

From Chelsea Market to Samsung’s NYC flagship store to Google and more, participants will learn how to become experience architects and leave with strategic frameworks, concepts, applied skills, and industry connections immediately applicable to their professional work. The outcome of the class will be a Medill Executive Education Continued Learning Certificate.

“The Meatpacking District offers a wealth of hands-on learning opportunities to explore how brands make meaningful connections with their customers,” said Danielle Robinson Bell, Medill assistant professor, and academic director of IMC Professional and Continued Learning. “We are excited to welcome our alumni to experience these opportunities as well as reconnect with their classmates.”

Future continued learning courses are being developed.

About the Meatpacking District
The Meatpacking District is a neighborhood like no other: a fusion of grit and glam, where old New York meets the frenetic pace of the 21st Century. It has a magnetic appeal. The Meatpacking District Management Association is a business improvement District (BID). It serves the businesses, residents, and visitors of the area with a common goal: to program, promote, and take care of the Meatpacking District. There is a broad community that makes the District distinct. The BID organizes community events and entertainment. It is the partner with the City to maintain and keep clean over 30,000 square feet of plazas and four Open Streets. The teams are on the ground seven days a week sweeping the sidewalks and engaging with visitors. The work, at its core, is to ensure that businesses succeed and the characters who work, live, and play here enjoy it and are happy to return.

Home Medill Research

The future of news consumption can be glimpsed in the habits of younger news consumers today

Next Gen News Understanding the audiences of 2030

The news habits of young consumers differ from previous generations, and understanding these differences will be critical for news outlets to accommodate, according to research conducted by the Knight Lab Medill in partnership with FT Strategies and supported by the Google News Initiative.

Through multi-hour interviews with news consumers ages 18 to 25 from the United States, Nigeria and India, the research uncovered the evolving expectations and needs that news producers can address.

“Helping news organizations understand the needs of young news consumers today but also getting a glimpse of future habits is critical for all news organizations,” said Medill Dean Charles Whitaker. “We’re proud to play a role in this exploration of news habits, and are committed to supporting news organizations globally.”

“Using a human-centered design approach to understanding the needs and desires of young news consumers is the best way to anticipate changing demand for news from all users,” said Jeremy Gilbert, Medill Professor and Knight Chair in Digital Media Strategy.

The research is meant to help news organizations take action on identified emerging behaviors like how news consumers simul-tasking, fluidly transition between often unrelated tasks, and a focus on filtering their news through trusted individuals, like family, friends and work colleagues. The project also identified five modes of news consumption and an Ideal News Experience framework, identifying important factors to help news creators close the gap. And the project includes a toolkit meant to help newsrooms understand and ideate news products and strategies using the research.

“More deeply understanding how the next generation is consuming news gives crucial insights into how we might address news consumers’ needs in the future. Embracing change, working together and meeting the moment we’re in will be absolutely crucial to our shared work of helping to build more informed communities everywhere,” said Kristina Anderson, Managing Director of Global News Programs at Google.

“Young people have a complex and evolving relationship with the news. They understand the value that news can play in their lives, but are often disinterested or frustrated with how it’s being delivered to them,” said Joanna Levesque, Managing Director of FT Strategies. “We hope that news producers can use the findings from our research to start building closer relationships with the next generation of news consumers today.”

1990s Featured Legacies Legacies

Susan Ashworth Bader (MSJ95)

Republished from the East Bay Times

Susan Ashworth Bader, freelance journalist and former Editor-in-Chief of TV Technology, a broadcast industry trade publication, died suddenly on December 4 at her home in Oakland, CA. She was 52.

Compassionate and curious, Susie, as she was known by family, friends and colleagues, was drawn to reporting at an early age. With no school newspaper at Serrano High School, she instead worked on the yearbook. At UC Riverside, she covered campus events from basketball to student body governance meetings for the Highlander.

After graduation, she was accepted at Medill to obtain her Masters Degree. There it was crystallized in her, the core journalistic standards of accuracy, transparency and accountability, which she fiercely held herself and other journalists to throughout her career. During her last quarter at school, with Montana, her cat in tow, Susie moved to Washington, D.C., to continue her studies through assignments covering breaking news events in the nations capital. She met her future husband, Rob Bader, in Gaithersburg, MD. She first began working for TV Technology where she reported on advances in the field of broadcast television, from the newest flying cameras filming the X-Games to virtual reality TV news studios and even “how that elusive yellow first-down line appears on a football field.”

Susie and Rob were married in her hometown of Wrightwood, CA, in 1999. They moved to the Bay Area when Rob was accepted in law school at UC College of the Law in San Francisco. Susie worked for the housing publication Hanley Wood as an editor before moving on to Inman News and American City Business Journals. Susie was a reporter at the annual National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas for many years. Sadly, in 2022, the Bader family was devastated when Rob was diagnosed Stage IV Cancer. He passed away in March 2023. Susie is survived by her children Jackson, Nate and Charlotte, her sister Jennifer, her brother George Kenneth and her father, George Richard.

Susan Ashworth Bader

Home My Medill Story

“LT. JOE” – Joe Patterson (MSJ72) Shares His Journey To Medill

Well, I never thought of the military as an option. But somehow, because I signed up for ROTC (Reserve Officers Training Corps) as a freshman at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, I found myself in olive drab military gear and boots with a rife on Thursday afternoons… marching around the college’s football field. It doubled as where we learned how to march in formation, and to a cadence. None of us were particularly good at it. After all, we were liberal arts students studying to become businessmen (no girls at Wofford in the 1960s), lawyers, doctors, educators and even some clergy. Wofford had its roots in the Methodist church.

After four years of marching and receiving a monthly ROTC check of about $50, those of us in the class of 1969 were given an option of which part of the U. S. Army we wanted to join. We all would begin active duty after graduation as second lieutenants, better than being drafted as an enlisted man… or so we were told. All of us seemed destined for Vietnam – President Lyndon Johnson’s unpopular war in Southeast Asia.

I chose the transportation corps. Infantry was nowhere near my list. I think signal corps was my second choice. My brief encounter with infantry training at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, during the summer of my junior year left me underwhelmed. Actually, more than underwhelmed. Can’t find the word to describe my experience. Negative probably is best. One encounter that I will always remember is the 40-yard low crawl – an exercise that requires you to crawl on your belly without raising your butt. I “got” to do it three times in a row because I could not keep my butt down. On the third attempt, I was the only one crawling and exhausted. The rest of the camp – hundreds of ROTC types – watched. When I finally finished successfully, on the third try, the entire camp erupted into a resounding cheer and applause. I was dead tired, and a bit embarrassed. So much for the infantry.

Graduation from Wofford took place in May 1969. I received my degree – a Bachelor of Arts – in English. Had no idea what to do with it. I’d think about it while serving my required two years on active duty. At graduation, in addition to my diploma, I received my gold-color second lieutenant bars.

I did get assigned to the transportation corps and received my orders for Fort Eustis in Virginia. That is the headquarters for the transportation corps. There, in addition to rolling out of bed every morning at 6 o’clock, calisthenics in shorts and T-shirts were required rain or shine, hot or freezing cold. Then, after jumping jacks, pushups and a quarter mile run, you had to do several pullups before being admitted to the mess hall for breakfast. I think that was the coldest I have ever been.

While completing my transportation corps officers training, I got my orders to report to Fort Polk in Louisiana. Yes, some place warm. I was assigned to – of all things – an infantry battalion. Our mission was to train troops headed to Vietnam. Being an English major, our unit commander gave me the job of developing lesson plans for those giving combat instructions.

A desk job, which wasn’t bad until the unit commander – a major – told me, to go serve as an attorney to prosecute a soldier who had gone AWOL (absent without leave). I had no benefit of training to do this, but in the army if you are an officer – even a second lieutenant — you can serve as an attorney. I did some quick study, asked questions and took on the assignment. Everything went smoothly, until the military judge asked me for the day book. No one had said anything about having the day book with me. That is the book that logs soldiers out to go off post. When I tried to explain that I did not have it, the judge went ballistic. He told me that the case was being dismissed and that my unit commander should never ever appoint another officer to prosecute an AWOL case without providing him with the day book. He made an example out of me. I never served as a military attorney again, and was glad about that.

I eventually got my orders for Vietnam. I was somewhat relieved since Fort Polk was – and probably still is — the arm pit of army bases. It is stuck in the middle of nowhere Louisiana. However, on a couple of occasions I did venture down about 200 miles to New Orleans where I learned about crawfish – a Cajun delicacy. To this day, I will choose crawfish over shrimp.

Before being shipped overseas, I was given a few days leave at home in Laurens, South Carolina, where my parents and brothers lived. I was there for maybe a week before going to Charleston where my first flight was from the Charleston Air Force Base to Washington, D. C. Then it was Flying Tiger Airlines to Alaska to Japan and on to Vietnam. It was well over 20 hours flying time. On the final decent, I felt like we were dive-bombing into the ground – standard procedure to avoid enemy fire. We landed safely.

I reported in at Long Binh – the major command headquarters for the United States Army Vietnam. I am sure I spent the night in barracks there, but I am fuzzy on most details except for when I actually reported for duty. Still wearing my summer kakis and in one of the headquarters buildings, I waited for the officer who was going to give me my in-country assignment. To my surprise a female colonel entered the room. I stood at attention. Saluted.

She said I was being assigned to a truck company supporting an infantry battalion. Not having much military bearing, I – without hesitation – asked her what else she had. Looking surprised, she said she was not normally asked that question. However, since this was her last day in country and she was going back to the states the next day, she asked how much I knew about boats. Again, without hesitation, I told her I knew as much about boats as I knew about trucks.

In actuality, I did not know much about either. My preference, though, was to be with one of the army’s two boat battalions instead of in a jeep heading an infantry platoon into Cambodia.

She said, okay. I was told to report to the 159th Boat Battalion at Cat Lai, outside of Saigon. Cat Lai was an old French seaplane port on the Dong Nai River. The French fought the Vietnamese in the late 1940s and early 1950s before leaving.

The two-story stucco buildings in the Cat Lai compound were surrounded by a walled enclosure with guard stations spaced all the way around. I was told that from time to time there had been attacks by North Vietnamese. The major danger, though, was having one of the ships in the Cat Lai harbor blown up by enemy sappers. These ships, often on their last voyage, carried ammunition for our troops. Needless to say, if one of these was ever blown, it would have taken out Cat Lai and part of Saigon. That actually happened after I got back to the states in 1971.

I reported to the 5th Boat Company where I was issued army fatigues, a flak jacket, boots, weapons, a helmet and told that I would be the company’s supply officer. Again, something I knew noting about, but I was all for on-the-job training. It certainly beat riding shotgun in a jeep. The 5th Boat

Joe Patterson in uniform.

Company’s mission was to patrol rivers in heavily armed landing craft for combat and logistical purposes. My post was on shore, except for occasions when I was called upon to go on the river to a freighter to inspect its cargo.

My first several days at Cat Lai were spent in bed. I had come down with something that gave me a fever, dysentery and achiness. Since I rarely got sick, this was unusual. I was on my back on a cot in the open air of the building where I had been assigned officer quarters – a room with a door and window, not bad by Vietnam standards. We all shared a communal bath. There were probably two dozen of us on the second floor of the building – all lieutenants and captains.

I was able to start my supply officer duties. Fortunately for me, the supply sergeant – an army veteran — knew all about supply, and we got along terrifically. He liked my lack of military bearing. I just told him and others to call me Lt. Joe. They did when we were among ourselves. Also, it was nice to have at Cat Lai two other Wofford graduates from my class. Not expected since there were only 275 in our class. And here we were, three Wofford men together halfway around the world fighting a war.

The biggest challenge at this stage of the Vietnamese conflict was keeping troops busy. Everything within our control – rations, maintenance materials, clothing and daily supplies – were kept in CONEX containers. We had dozens of them. To keep the six men assigned to supply occupied, we were constantly organizing and reorganizing and reorganizing and reorganizing the containers. It was something constructive to do.

This, however, did not keep all troops content, especially those assigned to river duty. Drugs – the most destructive element of serving in Vietnam in 1970 and 1971 – had many enlisted men hooked. The primary reason was the drugs over there were dirt cheap… pennies compared to what they would cost in the states. We actually had enlisted men “reup” – volunteering for another tour in Vietnam – just so they could afford their drug habits.

In addition to being the supply officer, I was named the battalion’s drug officer and battalion historian. Being historian was interesting. I enjoyed it. Being drug officer was disturbing, especially when we took addicts to the Long Binh hospital strapped down in a jeep to keep them from hurting themselves or attacking me and two other soldiers. I did not enjoy this, but it had to be done. By now, I was a first lieutenant.

I did think about life after military service and thought advertising would be the path to take. A friend of mine at Wofford had entered Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism’s advertising program, and recommended it. It was considered by many to be the best. He edited the Wofford College yearbook before I did. I was editor in 1968. So, I mailed an application and introductory letter to Northwestern.

Some time went by, but I did – to my surprise — get an acceptance letter from the chairman of the Medill School of Journalism Graduate Admissions Committee, Dr. Albert Sutton. There was a stipulation, though. I would have to enter the Medill program in June or wait another full year to begin. I was not scheduled to get out of the army until August. However, I knew the 159th battalion or at least a major part of it was being deactivated in the fall. It appeared the war in Vietnam was beginning to wind down.

Thus, I began writing letters. A lot of letters. I had purchased a Smith Corona typewriter at the PX (post exchange) at Long Binh. I used the old hunt and peck method. Still do.

First, I explained the situation to the 159th command, a colonel and some majors. While empathetic, they said an early out in June rather than the fall was out of the question. It would have exceeded the military’s 90-day early out policy.

Not deterred, I moved my inquiry on up the chain of command… getting the same negative response. I then had the bright idea of contacting my U. S. Senators – Strom Thurmond and Ernest Hollings.

My inquiries required some prodding but eventually I got a positive reply from Senator Thurmond who understood that it made no sense for me to stay with a unit that was being deactivated at a time when I needed to be at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. I informed the Medill School of Journalism that I would be enrolling in June, but instead of entering the advertising program I wanted to enter the journalism program. The chairman of graduate admissions said okay, and they looked forward to me being there on June 18. This was still months away from when I was to enroll.

Joe Patterson at desk in VietnamDuties as the 5th Transportation Company supply officer were pretty much routine, not a lot of excitement. It was not like we were in an active combat zone, even though agent orange was dropped outside our compound on a regular basis to kill the foliage. We did keep our guards up since we were vulnerable to attacks on the ammunition ships in our harbor.

One day, though, an enlisted man came running to me near the officers’ barracks. Almost out of breath, he told me I had to go the enlisted men’s barracks because one of the privates had taken a loaded weapon – against all rules – back to his bunk. He told everyone that he was going to shoot the company commander, a first lieutenant who was not well liked, especially by the enlisted men because he – the lieutenant – carried his rank on his sleeve. In other words, he thought he was better than others. The private with the loaded weapon told those concerned that he would only give the weapon to Lt. Joe. I really did not know him, but I had a positive rapport with most at Cat Lai. He said he would only give it to me and no one else. So, I went to the barracks. I was told the soldier had no prior behavior problems. The door was closed. I called out the soldier’s name, and he told me to come in. Of course, he could have shot me. He did not. He gave me the weapon, and I promptly walked it over to the company commander. Slamming it down on his desk, I told him this was a close call but that if he did not change his ways he could become a statistic. I left, and heard no more about the incident. The soldier that took the weapon was not charged with an offense. This was, after all, Vietnam.

Two other hair-raising experiences were later at Cat Lai and then at Vung Tau.

Vung Tau, first. This is a coastal town about 80 miles from Cat Lai. I agreed to accompany a delivery there since an officer was needed for the job. It was a beautiful day. In the states, it would have been a called a beach day, and Vung Tau is a beach. As we got closer to our destination, the driver and I noticed a large crowd gathering between us and the gates of our destination. They were holding signs and sticks. Guards at the gates where we were headed hurried us in. Unbeknownst to us, we had driven into an anti-government demonstration. We made our delivery, had a nice lunch of prawns (very large shrimp) and saw the beach where a freighter had been beached. Our trip back to Cat Lai was uneventful even though we were locked and loaded, just in case.

Speaking of being locked and loaded, the Cat Lai incident required this. One night, actually about 3 am, all of us were roused out of bed, told to put on our flak jackets, helmets, boots and get loaded weapons from the armory. That is where weapons were kept since Cat Lai was not an active combat area. I got my 45 and M-16 and headed, as directed, to the front gate of the Cat Lai compound. Flares were going off everywhere. The company commander about whom I spoke earlier ordered me to take three men and hold down the main entrance.  Sounded like a suicide mission to me, but orders were orders. The 5th Transportation Company supply sergeant was next to me, thankfully. He was a calming and reassuring influence. He had been in combat before. I had not. Hours went by. No attack, but the adrenaline was pumping. False alarm, and the only one I experienced while in Vietnam.

As my tour in Vietnam came to a close, a dinner was held at the officers’ mess hall. We had these occasionally. The battalion commander at the end of the meal got up and made a few announcements, some related to the downsizing of the battalion. He then turned the program over to the battalion’s executive officer who called me up front. I was baffled. He then proceeded to hand me two medicine balls, each measuring about a foot in diameter and weighing several pounds. He then began recanting how I had, against all odds, gotten the army to grant me an early out to go to graduate school. Because of my persistence and indefatigability, the battalion senior staff voted to give me its first – and, as far as I know, only –“you really got a set of balls” award. I was speechless but said something stupid like I had enjoyed being at Cat Lai.

When the day arrived on June 11 for me to head back to the states, I dressed in my summer kakis and was told not to wear my fatigues in the states. I packed some things in my duffle bag, grabbed my typewriter and camera and headed to Emma – the jeep that was assigned to me at Cat Lai. As the driver was beginning to leave the compound, a soldier began running – sprinting – after us yelling at the top of his voice. “Lt. Joe, stop. STOP! STOP!” We did. He, after catching his breath, told me the battalion commander had hoped to personally give me what he was handing me. What he was carrying had literally just come in. I opened the package. It was a bronze star for meritorious service. To this day, I am humbled.

I did make it back to the states. When asked if I wanted to serve in the U. S. Army Reserves, I declined thinking to myself “I have enjoyed as much as I can stand.”

Weighing 128 pounds, I had a week to get from my parent’s home in Laurens, South Carolina, to Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. I made it. Not long after arriving in Evanston, I was sitting on the steps of the Northwestern Student Center on Sheridan Road and a student anti-Vietnam war demonstration came marching by. I thought, I was just there.

I graduated from Medill in 1972. I was able to afford it thanks to the GI Bill and several of my economy measures such as living rent free in the basement of a mansion on Sheridan Ave. in exchange for shoveling snow and mowing grass. My mode of transportation was a Sears & Roebuck bicycle which I rode everywhere, even in snow, wind, rain and ice. The Medill librarian noticed that even on the coldest days I wore only a sweater and a jacket. She gave me a heavy coat that someone had left in the library, and I gladly accepted it. I hung on to that coat until a few years ago.

Lessons learned at Medill, especially from Professor Ben Baldwin, and at Cat Lai laid the groundwork for the successful career that I enjoyed in journalism, corporate communications and investor relations. I am happily retired now in Aiken, South Carolina, at age 77. I did recover from an Agent Orange linked heart attack in 2011.

ABOUT THE AUTHORJoe Patterson in polo shirt.
Joseph F. Patterson has created and managed proactive communications and investor relations programs for financial services companies (First Atlanta Corporation, Wachovia Corporation and Sterling Financial Corporation), utility services (Westinghouse Electric Corporation, PJM Interconnection and GridSouth), telecommunications providers (Powertel and D&E Communications) and real estate/resort developments (Sea Pines Company and Kiawah Island Company) as well as major nationally televised sporting events – the Heritage Golf Classic, the LPGA Championship, the World Invitational Tennis Classic and the Family Circle Tennis Cup. He began his career as a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel newspaper. Joe graduated from Northwestern University with a Master of Science degree in journalism and from Wofford College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English. While serving as a lieutenant in Vietnam, he received a Bronze Star for meritorious service. He is an Eagle Scout.