1990s Class Notes Featured Class Notes

Kesha Boyce Williams (BSJ96)

Kesha Boyce Williams has joined the University of South Carolina Upstate as the new vice chancellor for marketing and strategic communications. In her new role, she provides strategic leadership to the USC Upstate marketing and communications team and foster a spirit of collaboration.

Before this position, Williams served for nine years as the public information director for Clemson University, where she developed and implemented strategies for marketing, communications, and social media content.

Home My Medill Story

Christine Brennan (BSJ80, MSJ81): An Industry Trailblazer Dedicated to Serving the Next Generation of Female Sports Reporters

By Myles Gilbert

When Christine Brennan was 10, her father would often find her in their living room, school books pushed aside, intently listening to the Toledo Mud Hens broadcast on public radio. Brennan followed the entire 1968 season of the Detroit Tigers Triple-A affiliate in a scorebook she received for her birthday.

“Not only were many 10-year-old girls in America not doing that,” Brennan said. “I dare to say very few 10-year-old boys were doing that.”

That’s who Christine was, and is. Infatuated with scores, stat sheets, and storylines.

Now, at age 64, Brennan has spent more than 40 years covering professional sports and the Olympics for the Miami Herald, The Washington Post and now USA Today. She is also a commentator for ABC News and CNN. Brennan became the Miami Herald’s first female sports reporter in 1981, the Post’s first woman assigned to the Washington Football Team beat in 1985, and the first president of the Association for Women in Sports Media in 1988. A trailblazer in the industry, Brennan is dedicated to help blaze a trail for the next generation of female sports reporters.

“I would be mad at myself if I didn’t give back,” Brennan said.

Growing up in Toledo, Ohio, sports surrounded Brennan, and it became her passion. She and her father dedicated fall Saturdays to college football, attending University of Toledo games just across the street from their home.

Brennan was enthralled by the action. Growing up, she wrote game previews for NBC’s nationally televised baseball games with information she gathered from her own bank of baseball knowledge and her hometown newspaper, the Toledo Blade. She scanned the headlines and box scores of the night before, craving the scoop.

On April 6, 1981, after receiving her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Brennan became the first female sports reporter at the Miami Herald and covered the University of Florida Gators football program, a coveted beat in South Florida.

Brennan attributes her early success in a male-dominated profession to her editors at the Herald and coaches in South Florida, including legendary Miami Dolphins head coach Don Shula, because they brought her into the newsroom and locker room and allowed her to thrive.

In 1984, Brennan moved to The Washington Post, where then-sports editor George Solomon was inspired by her presence on his team.

“I was impressed with her professionalism and how she cultivated sources,” Solomon said. “She knew it wasn’t easy, but she was respected.”

Grateful for the opportunities she was given to live out her dream, Brennan was inspired to give back, recalling a saying her father often quoted from the New Testament: “To whom much is given, much is expected.”

In 1988, Brennan was elected president of the Association for Women in Sports Media, beginning her mentorship and support of female journalists. She helped found a scholarship-internship program, which has impacted almost 200 women, according to Brennan.

Michele Himmelberg, one of the organization’s founders, commends Brennan for championing women’s rights in her reporting.

“She is a strong, fair and righteous voice on important issues that need to be called out,” Himmelberg said. “She forces all of us to think about how wrong these issues are outside sports.”

For 13 years, beginning in 1999, Brennan pressed officials at the Masters Tournament, hosted at the Augusta National Golf Club, about the club’s lack of female members, returning every spring to ask the same question.

“I was public enemy number one of Augusta National,” she said. “But you can ask tough questions and still admire the event.”

Finally, in 2012, Brennan broke the news that Augusta National had admitted its first two female members, a scoop she credited to her friendly relationship with Billy Payne, then chairman of Augusta National, dating back to his days as the head of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

“You treat people right and they treat you right,” she said.

Brennan said she wants to be remembered for looking to the future and helping others, especially those without the same opportunities she had.

“Christine is incredibly generous with her time,” said Charles Whitaker, who was a classmate of Brennan’s at Medill and now serves as dean. “Whether it’s for career advice or just to find a mentor, I always direct students to Christine.”

Himmelberg recalled crowds of young female reporters huddled around Brennan at Association for Women in Sports Media conventions to introduce themselves.

“They flock around Christine because she’s so positive and they soak it all in,” Himmelberg said. “She’s always ready to actively mentor young women and give them hope, direction and guidance.”

What has been most gratifying for Brennan is her activism and compassionate reporting.

“If I were remembered at all,” she said, “I would want to be remembered as someone who gave back, and someone who had an unquenchable thirst to motivate and encourage those coming after me.”

1970s 1980s Class Notes Featured Class Notes

Laura Washington (BSJ78, MSJ80)

Laura Washington (BSJ78, MSJ80) is starting a new job at the Chicago Tribune after 20 years at the Chicago Sun-Times. Her weekly column, featuring her reporting on race, politics and urban issues, will appear in the Tribune’s opinion section starting June 6.

1950s Featured Legacies Legacies

Roy Wiley (BSJ56)

Roy Wiley worked in advertising and public relations for more than four decades after starting out in journalism and for many years was the chief spokesman for Navistar, the truck and engine manufacturer.

“He was a very positive, energizing kind of person, and he would hang around often times people half his age, but he had more energy than they did,” said Dan Ustian, a retired chairman and CEO of Navistar. “He knew everybody.”

Wiley, 87, died April 4 at Northwestern Memorial Hospital while recovering from hip surgery, said his wife of 33 years, Bobbie Huskey. He had been a Loop resident.

Born in Chicago and raised on the Northwest Side, Wiley was the son of Charles L. Wiley, who ran unsuccessfully in the 1932 GOP primary for a Northwest Side congressional district.

Wiley attended Onarga Military Academy in downstate Onarga for high school, then attended Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism for two years.

In 1952, while at Northwestern, Wiley was hired as an apprentice copy clerk at the Chicago Sun-Times. He was promoted to full-time general assignment reporter two years later, and later was the paper’s auto editor, a marketing and stock market columnist and finally, the paper’s assistant financial editor, overseeing a staff of 10.

“As a metro reporter in Chicago, back in the day, he’d witnessed some harsh things, but he nonetheless loved the city deeply despite its flaws,” said former Tribune reporter James P. Miller, a longtime friend. “Roy also loved newspapering — the action and the deadlines.”

In the early 1960s, Wiley also was editor of Glenview-based Automotive Fleet magazine, a publication devoted exclusively to passenger car fleets owned or leased by industry and government.

In 1968, Wiley left the Sun-Times to take a job in public relations as a vice president at the Financial Relations Board, a financial communications agency. Wiley remained there until 1972, when he and a colleague cofounded OSLA Communications, a public relations firm that was an offshoot of Olympic Savings & Loan Association.

Wiley later was director of communications at advertising agency Weber, Cohn and Riley before signing on with the Ogilvy & Mather public relations firm in 1982.

In the early 1990s, Wiley managed media relations for clients involved in hostile merger-and-acquisition activity. Miller, then a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, recalled Wiley’s forthrightness and graciousness amid at-times contentious dealings between companies.

“M&A … isn’t rocket science, but it is precision work because a lot of money is riding on the outcome, and tiny signals can swing the price of the target company’s shares, and both sides can be tempted to sling mud at the other,” Miller said. “Not Roy Wiley, though, ever, in my experience, over decades of interactions with the guy. In a hardball business, he was old-school — somebody whose word was always, always good.”

In 1996, Wiley joined public relations firm Hill & Knowlton.

“You could always count on Roy to have that skeptical journalist’s eye on things,” said Hud Englehart, who worked with Wiley at Hill & Knowlton. “He always knew what questions to ask or what the most insightful questions were that got us to a core insight into the community and as well into clients.”

In 1998, Navistar hired Wiley as director of communications. At Navistar, he was known for insisting on only using the stairs in the company’s Warrenville headquarters, as a way to stay fit.

“We had five floors there, and one meeting might be on the first floor and the next meeting would be on the fifth floor, and some of the people would be going to both meetings, and Roy would say, ‘Let’s walk,’ ” Ustian said. “So Roy would walk up five flights of stairs, and the young guys (with him) would be the ones that were tired.”

Wiley retired from Navistar in 2011, at age 76.

Wiley and his wife renovated a vintage home in Lakeview before moving to a Loop high-rise, where their neighbors included former TV reporter and Better Government Association Executive Director Andy Shaw.

“My first thought was that this is one fashionable octogenarian,” Shaw recalled. “He was still as stylish, sophisticated and urbane as he had been throughout his distinguished career — a true boulevardier.”

Two marriages ended in divorce. In addition to his wife, Wiley is survived by a son, Roy; a daughter, Cindy Wiley Hindel; nine grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. Another son, Todd, died in 2018.

Source: Chicago Tribune

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Telling George Floyd’s full story

By Marc Zarefsky (BSJ07) for Spotlight on Storytelling

Robert Samuels watched footage of George Floyd’s murder like millions of people around the world, but when Samuels, a journalist for the Washington Post, first traveled to Minneapolis in the summer of 2020, he wasn’t interested in Floyd’s death. He wanted to write about Floyd’s life.

“As much as I read about him, I had no sense of his soul,” Samuels told me. “That’s what I wanted to show the world.”

Samuels earned the trust of Floyd’s family and closest friends — many who previously refused interview requests — and crafted a powerful tale of hope and horror as part of the Post’s six-part series on “George Floyd’s America.” But Samuels knew there was a far bigger story to tell, a story of systemic racism that ultimately left Floyd gasping to breathe.

“As time went on, his humanity risked being reduced into simply a face that was associated with pain,” Samuels said. “Fellow Post reporter Toluse Olorunnipa and I thought we could help restore it.”

Now, nearly two years to the day since Floyd was killed, the two are trying to do just that. Samuels and Olorunnipa co-authored “His Name is George Floyd: One Man’s Life and the Struggle for Racial Justice,” which is available for purchase today.

Samuels talked with me about the challenges of crafting such a complex story involving a person most people know of, but few know about.

As you were writing the book, who was the audience you were writing for?

The first person is my mom. Because she immigrated from Jamaica to this country, she had to learn about racism in America. She came to this country in 1973, the same year Floyd was born, and she wondered how her life would be different if her family experienced what Floyd’s had. So in my mom, I think of the person who might not have the complete depth of understanding of the issues, but enough of a baseline that you can’t take certain thoughts or feelings for granted.

Honestly, a part of me wrote it for the 16-year-old version of myself — the skinny, somewhat self-effacing kid who could not fully articulate why teachers underestimated him or why he could sometimes feel so out of place in the country he loved. I imagined him picking up this book in an airport and being empowered with the vocabulary and the historical knowledge about race and racism that he did not previously have. And I thought of how empowering it would be for him.

How, if at all, did your approach to interviews change depending on who you were attempting to speak with?

The pitch we made wasn’t that different for anyone — from any of Floyd’s loved ones to President Biden himself, who also answered our questions. We thought we had a great opportunity to help open people’s eyes to the invasive force of systemic racism, and we told everyone how humbling it would be if they could help join us on the journey. And so many people, including people who were with Floyd on the day he died who have not spoken publicly about the incident, said “yes.” More than 400 did. And every “yes” we received felt monumental.

Profile stories can sometimes have a formulaic pattern to them, yet the story you tell weaves George Floyd’s story into the larger story of systemic racism in this country. How challenging was it to piece those stories together?

Floyd’s presence actually helped us focus the story. We knew any issue we discussed had to relate to him and the movement that followed his death. The tentacles of systemic racism in this country are wide-ranging, so embedding these ideas inside the narrative allowed us to introduce them to the reader in a way that feels organic. A lot of biographies tell the “what happened” part; We wanted to put his life in the proper context and answer the “why” questions, too, because his death became such a symbol of how racism operates in America. But we wanted the reader to understand that systemic racism did not come pressing on Floyd solely because of his last interaction on earth.

What did you learn about storytelling from this project?

The benefit of planning ahead. We wrote a pretty big book — twice as many words as our publisher asked — that had many different threads and characters, so it had the potential to be a train wreck. There was no way we could have done the book and finished on time if we did not build the architecture for chapters before we started writing. We had to have a sense of building up to important scenes, make conscious decisions about when the narrative should begin to speed up and pray, pray, that we could get characters developed over the chapters. There was little about the structure that was happenstance.

What advice would you give someone looking to become a better storyteller?

Listen and learn. I think a lot of journalists go into stories with the wrong attitude that you are doing a community or a person a huge favor. No. They are giving you the privilege of trust and candor. So, listen to them. Let their answers breathe and try to interrupt them as little as possible. Ask smart follow-ups. And then, at the end, mirror back what you thought you heard them say.

What do you hope readers learn from your book?

That George Floyd’s battle to breathe in America started long before he met Derek Chauvin. He spent his life trying to navigate systems that carried the legacy of racist laws that rarely showed him any grace. I want readers to see how systemic racism works and how consuming it can be.

But ultimately, this story is about the persistence and optimism of black people in this country. Floyd, for example, never stopped trying to be a more productive member of society — and always believed it was possible. The activists who take up the fight for justice protest because they believe the country can have a better tomorrow. And even when legislation fails and their tactics get maligned, they seem to hold a brighter outlook for the country’s future than so many of the lawmakers who represent them. It is the black people of the country who are the holders of American hope in the book — and I found it to be a profound response to the structural issues in this country. When I asked why they refused to think things don’t get better, the answer was always the same: If we lose hope, the alternative is far too bleak.


That’s it for this storytelling spotlight. If you know someone who might enjoy this newsletter, please pass it along. If you want to know more about “His Name is George Floyd: One Man’s Life and the Struggle for Racial Justice,” don’t miss these reviews:

1960s Featured Legacies Legacies

Gail Harwell (BSJ62)

Gail Petersen Harwell, 81, passed away peacefully on Tuesday, April 26, 2022, at RiverView Care Center in Crookston, where she had been a resident since October of 2021.

She was born October 7, 1940, to Norma and Jerry Petersen at Minette’s Maternity Home in Fertile, where she also attended school, first grade through 12th. From early years, she had a curiosity for the world and would stand on the front porch and say, “Just wait for me world, I’ll get there.”

To achieve that goal, Gail was a determined high achiever in high school, which led to a full scholarship at Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism. After earning her Bachelor of Science in 1962, she launched a career as an advertising writer in Chicago. She was named a Vice President of J. Walter Thompson Company-Chicago in 1969, where she worked primarily in television, writing for such accounts as Sears dishwashers, Kraft Foods, Sunbeam, and Jovan fragrances. In 1977, she moved to Boston and Arnold & Company; in 1979 to Manhattan and JWT New York; in 1983 to Los Angeles and Evans Advertising; and in 1993 to Marin County in the Bay Area.

Gail met her husband Richard Sterling Harwell in 1971 at Great Lakes, IL, at the end of a sailing race. They were separated by geography and circumstances, but fate brought them together again 20 years later, and they were married in 1993 at Concordia Lutheran Church in Fertile.

In 1995, Gail changed careers, becoming an independent editorial consultant in the engineering-construction field. She often worked alongside Sterling; writing, editing, formatting, and producing proposals, feasibility studies, and marketing materials for multibillion-dollar construction projects. She worked in Asia, Europe, Australia, and Central America, as well as across the U.S., continuing until her final retirement at the age of 73. From that time, Gail and Sterling enjoyed a life of tennis, travel, volunteering, and relaxation overlooking San Francisco Bay. They were members of the Belvedere Tennis Club and the San Francisco Yacht Club. Gail was an avid reader, and she belonged to a local book club for 10 years.

Friends will remember her for her meticulous planning and orchestration of many wonderful birthday parties, club gatherings and class reunions.

Both Gail and Sterling will be remembered by family for initiating and maintaining the “Petersen-Harwell Perpetual Ping Pong Tournament,” complete with engraved trophy. Gail made sure the results with photos were posted in the Fertile Journal.

Family and friends recall her kindness, generosity, acute sense of humor, infectious laugh, courage, and fierce determination. She had a certain “twinkle in her eyes,” and she will be dearly missed by all who knew and loved her.

Gail was preceded in death by her husband, R. Sterling Harwell, by her older sister, and best friend, Marlys Ozga, and by an infant nephew. She is survived by brothers, Harold (Candy) of Brookline, MA, and Michael (Carol) of Fertile, and brother-in-law, Edward Ozga of Plymouth, MN, nine nieces and nephews, a host of grandnieces and grandnephews, and one great-grandniece.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to Parkinson’s disease research or Hospice of the Red River Valley.

Source: Eriksen-Vik-Ganje Funeral Homes


Suburban Empire: Cold War Militarization in the US Pacific

Lauren Hirshberg (MSJ02)

Suburban Empire takes readers to the US missile base at Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, at the matrix of postwar US imperial expansion, the Cold War nuclear arms race, and the tide of anti-colonial struggles rippling across the world. Hirshberg shows that the displacement of indigenous Marshallese within Kwajalein Atoll mirrors the segregation and spatial politics of the mainland US as local and global iterations of US empire took hold. Tracing how Marshall Islanders navigated US military control over their lands, Suburban Empire reveals that Cold War-era suburbanization was perfectly congruent with US colonization, military testing, and nuclear fallout. The structures of suburban segregation cloaked the destructive history of control and militarism under a veil of small-town innocence.


The Sleep-Deprived Teen: Why Our Teenagers Are So Tired, And How Parents And Schools Can Help Them Thrive

Lisa L. Lewis (IMC91)

In 2015, when Lisa L. Lewis started looking into why high schools start so early in the morning, she had no idea where it eventually lead. After the 7:30 a.m. start time at her son’s high school prompted her involvement, her writing on the topic sparked California’s landmark law (the first of its kind in the nation) requiring health secondary school start times and her new book, The Sleep-Deprived Teen: Why Our Teenagers Are So Tired, And How Parents And Schools Can Help Them Thrive.

Her book synthesizes the research on sleep, provides parents with practical guidance, and also includes a deep dive into tech use and sleep, along with an examination of how sex and gender, sexual identity, socioeconomic status, and race and ethnicity can affect sleep. The book has been described as “a call to action” by Arianna Huffington and “an urgent and timely read” by Daniel H. Pink.

“Adolescents are chronically sleep-deprived, with far-ranging implications for their well-being – including their mental health,” Lewis said. “My hope is that spreading awareness of how critical sleep is for our teens will help prompt ongoing meaningful change.”


Bita: Ukrainian Warrior Dog

Deborah “Dobsy” Karabin (BSJ73)


My paternal grandparents lived there.

This book is about Bita Ukrainian Warrior Dog, which is the title.

She meets a band of pups from Paris led by Metro, an American poodle named after my own dear dog. Bita is separated from her family and finds a Ukrainian soldier who is later wounded. Bita tracks him down, finds her family and surprises everyone including herself with a big bundle of joy.

2010s Class Notes Featured Class Notes

Mariel Turner (MSJ15)

Mariel Turner has recently started a new position at, Shonda Rhimes’ digital media website in partnership with Hearst. In her new role as Senior Culture Editor, Mariel will oversee all culture and entertainment coverage on the site, including reporting, writing, and editing film and TV features and stories. She will also host and manage Shondaland’s IGTV Pop Culture series.