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May 5: 2021 Hall of Achievement 2020 Inductees – Women in IMC Leadership – on Zoom

Medill honors HOA 2020 Inductees Jeanie Caggiano (COMM82, MSA83) and Kary McIlwain (MSA86) and talks with them about their careers in advertising and marketing and their journeys to executive leadership.

Medill Assistant Professor Danielle Bell will moderate the conversation.

Zoom link: https://medill.school/HOAwomeninIMCleadership

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Linda Saran Remembers her Father, Medill Alumnus Sam Saran (BSJ50, MSJ50)

My Father was a complex man.  Unlike most of us, who try to conceal our flaws, he wore them prominently and proudly on his sleeve.  Who you saw was who you got.

He was a professional’s professional.  In the journalism world, he was the logistics reporter for any story he covered, never wavering in the chaos.  In the corporate world, he was the eye of the storm in a crisis.  He never shied from making decisions and doling orders.  The many accomplishments throughout his colorful career are summarized in his obituary.

Here, I will focus on, and celebrate, “Sam the Family Man”.  He and my dear mother Dena provided support to four generations.  As the children of immigrants, they gave to the best of their ability.  They always looked for needs and tried to fill them.

My Father showed, and stepped, up in any number of ways:  chief copy editor, career counselor, math tutor, 4th of July bike decorator, and letter writer on birthdays, holidays and during college years.

And then there were the fun and funny moments.

One Easter we opened what looked like a wooden toolbox, only to find a white poodle puppy, Si-Bon.  When we were little, we got airplane and horseback rides or, we got carried through the house while he called out something silly.

We had the blessing of watching him do the same with his grandchildren Thomas, Effie, Marina & Dena.  He loved to get down on the floor and give them horseback rides, build all kinds of architectural buildings, including the Acropolis, churches, libraries, the Arlington Race Track and whole little communities.  He loved practicing golf with them on the putting mat and looked forward to the annual fishing outing at Luther Village in Arlington Heights.  If my sister Laurie was in town, she had the dubious honor of preparing the hooks!  He taught the grandchildren the Greek alphabet, numbers, and many words.

One of my fondest memories is Saturday mornings in Sauganash.  Each Saturday, Dad would record his financial program from our den.  Laurie and I would beg to come in and he would let us, provided we were quiet.  Each Saturday, all it would take was one look, one mouthing of some provocatory sentence or one poke and the giggles would set in, uncontrollably.  Of course, they started silent, then rumbled through our bodies until they gasped out into the air.  We got a few “takes” and eventually, were dismissed.  Until next Saturday.  I’ve no idea how much time our shenanigans added to his process, but it sure was fun!

Another fond memory is of the Winter hockey playoffs.  Dad, my brother Don and I would follow the Chicago Black Hawks.  We had our own playoff on the tabletop game set up on the oversized marble coffee table in the den.  It was very competitive!  My parents were way ahead of their time in not limiting any one of us by gender.  So, I leaned in and played my little heart out and nobody let me win.  Yet, sometimes I did!  As I look back, that was a great training ground for many of the corporate antics I would later encounter throughout my career.  Dad supported Don’s hockey sport, which he took up.  Sometimes, they would skate at the park together.

They also shared a passion for music, particularly jazz.  All three of us took piano lessons, but Don was the gifted pianist.  Dad put on album after album and Don could start playing the piece by ear.  Mom played the piano, too.  Although Dad early dabbled at the guitar, he had always wanted to learn to play piano.

Dad always took an interest in Laurie’s and my musical ventures, our church and other choral groups, Laurie’s musicals and theatrical performances, and my CD’s recorded for Roy.  He also supported my artwork endeavors.  Laurie and Dad enjoyed watching all kinds of sports together, and once attended the Western Open Golf tournament.

As Greeks, we were all about our food, food, food!  Sunday after church meals at restaurants with our cousins and family friends.  Lockwood Castle sparklers for our birthdays.  Lou Malnati’s pizza.  Biasetti’s hamburgers.  Greek lamb wrapped in white paper at Easter, with the best feta and bread.  Coffeecake for Sunday breakfast.  Homemade Greek delicacies.  The funniest holiday tradition was at the Thanksgiving table, which was packed with our cousins and a few of my college friends who couldn’t get home.  We would take turns telling jokes just as a friend was taking a bite of the Kourabiedes…and wait for the powdered sugar to fly!  Tough crowd…

Our family saw much of the U.S.A, sometimes in a Chevrolet and other cars, and by plane.  Many vacations spent in Estes Park with our cousins and other family friends…California, the East Coast and others.  Among our most memorable in the early ‘60’s:  I was about five when we flew to New York.  Our sedan rental ended up being a mustang, which barely accommodated the five of us and our luggage.  It was unbelievably hot with no air conditioning.  Bodies and bags filled every square inch of that sports car.  It was on that trip that I developed my love of red MGs.  Back in the day of non-hovercraft parents, mine let cousin Zoe and her boyfriend, Tony, “adopt” me for the week, taking me to the beach, for subs and the carnival all in…you guessed it…Tony’s red MG.  We Sarans are all about our cars.  Dad purchased his last one in January 2020 and drove it to pick up his Mariano’s groceries just months before his passing.

One of our most memorable family vacations almost didn’t happen.  In 1984, I had tickets to join my parents in Greece, where they were celebrating their anniversary.  I got the idea to have Don and Laurie come as a surprise.  We hustled to make it happen.  I remember Don and I scrambling downtown to get his passport.  We barely made it in time for the flight, where Laurie was waiting for us.  Not to sound archaic, but that pre-dated cell phones so all of this drama happened with out communication or updates!  I asked my parents to meet me outside their hotel.  I remember walking toward them and, just as we met, Don and Laurie casually stepped out from behind a tree into our path.  They were shocked!  Of course, it never occurred to us we could give one of them a heart attack!

Among my fondest memories are of watching my parents dance, which they did any chance they got.  They could cut a rug with the best of them and lit up the dance floor!  They would both beam as they moved in synch with ease.  Now that Dad also has received his “angel” wings they’re doing a different kind of dance.

Godspeed, Dad…

Linda Saran 2021
Northwestern University B.A./M.S.C.

 

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Margaret “Margo” Gordon (BSJ61, MSJ62)

Alumna and former Medill faculty member Margaret “Margo” Gordon died peacefully on April 1, 2021 in Seattle.

Gordon was born in Dixon, Ill. While in high school, she attended the Medill Cherubs summer program. After graduation from Aurora High School, she was awarded a scholarship to attend Northwestern and would go on to have a lifelong affiliation with the University. She earned undergraduate and master’s degrees from Medill and then a Ph.D. in sociology, also at Northwestern. She later served as a professor at Medill and, from 1980 to 1988, as director of the Center for Urban Affairs.

Between her various degrees, she spent three years in Nsukka, Nigeria with her first husband, Halfdan Johnson. While there, Margo helped students at the University of Nigeria start a student-run newspaper, the “Nsukka Record,” the first of its kind. It is still published today as “The Record,” a major national Nigerian newspaper. She also lived for a year in Aarhus, Denmark and worked as a reporter and editor for the Chattanooga Times and the St. Petersburg Times before returning to Evanston to complete her Ph.D.

In one of her classes, she met Andy Gordon. They married soon after and both went on to spend nearly 20 years as professors and, in Margo’s case, as a university administrator, at Northwestern. During that time, Margo authored or co-authored several books, including the widely acclaimed “The Female Fear” and “The Journalism of Outrage: Investigative Reporting and Agenda Building in America.”

In 1989, Margo and Andy were recruited to the University of Washington. Margo became Dean of the Graduate School of Public Affairs (now known as the Evans School), which she directed until she retired. She was inducted into the Medill Hall of Achievement inaugural class in 1997.

Margo will be remembered for bringing out the best in people and figuring out how to support them as a friend, professor, university administrator, dean or family member.

“She left no doubt with her friends and family how much she cared about them and was always her authentic caring self,” says Andy. “Margo really did have a twinkle in her eye and an enthusiasm that was infectious. She was also tenacious and fought fiercely on behalf of journalistic values, including at the Center, where an interdisciplinary team she pulled together co-authored a book on investigative reporting,” he adds.

“From the time of my recruitment until Margo left Northwestern, she was a mentor, colleague, co-author and role model for me,” says Medill Emeritus Professor Donna Leff. “She brought me in to the Center for Urban Affairs and led a communications research group there that produced coauthored work in journalism and policy—media influence in setting social and policy agendas. Margo’s seminal early work identified the connection between media coverage of rape and the way victims of sexual violence were treated by the criminal justice system and by society more generally.” Leff adds, “Her husband Andy is right—everyone liked the always smiling Margo.”

Medill Associate Professor Emeritus George Harmon was on the full-time faculty with Gordon from 1980 to when she left for Washington. “Anyone who met Margo knew instantly that hers was an incisive and inquisitive mind, interested in nearly everything,” Harmon says. “She was a delightful, supportive colleague on the faculty. Perhaps best of all, she was constantly cheerful.”

Medill Professor Jack Doppelt marvels that Margo and Andy lived inspiring lives – “companion scholars in related fields, both revered on campus, who left indelible impressions; Margo with her uplifting nature, Andy with his robust laugh.”

Margo is survived by her husband Andy, children Sarah (Scott) and Seth (Bootsy), brother Joe (Barbara), grandchildren Carenna and Drake, and many wonderful friends and family members. Her family is grateful that they were able to be with her in her final days despite COVID-19.

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Medill remembers Bob Mulholland (BSJ55, MSJ56), former NBC president and Medill faculty member

Robert “Bob” Mulholland, Medill alumnus and former Medill professor and broadcast chair, died peacefully March 9 in Naples, Florida. He was 87.

Mulholland received his bachelor’s degree at Medill in 1955 and his master’s in 1956. After serving for two years in the U.S. Army in Korea, his career was spent in broadcasting, most of it with NBC. He joined NBC in 1961 as a news writer in the network’s Chicago station, WMAQ-TV. Twenty years later, he was named president and chief operating officer of the entire company. In the intervening years, Mulholland worked in the NBC News London bureau; was the Washington producer for the well-known “Huntley-Brinkley Report;” was director of news for KNBC, the NBC-owned station in Los Angeles; was executive producer of the “NBC Nightly News with John Chancellor;” and was executive vice president of NBC News.

“Bob’s contributions to Medill are still seen today through our outstanding broadcast journalism program,” said Medill Dean Charles Whitaker. “His legacy lives through all the students who use his lessons to share some of today’s most important stories. We will forever be thankful for his talent and tenacity, and grateful that he chose to share it with Medill.”

Mulholland was named president of the NBC network in 1976, and in 1981, he was promoted to president and chief operating officer, assuming additional responsibility for the company’s five owned television stations, as well as the news, sports and radio divisions. He left NBC in 1984.

Mulholland returned to his alma mater in 1988, where he is credited with revamping and revitalizing Medill’s broadcast program.

David Nelson, associate professor emeritus and Mulholland’s colleague and friend, recalled, “A grin that welcomed you as a friend. A heart open to all. A commitment to journalistic accuracy and fairness. And an exceptional intellect sprinkled with curiosity. Bob Mulholland was special. Really special.

“I got to know him for 50 years, he admirably remained the same person – in the board room, in the classroom, on the golf course or tennis court. And, oh, did I mention his sense of humor? About 20 years ago Bob and I helped Dillon Smith drive his antique Bentley from Chicago to Naples. I drove. Dillon directed. Bob sat in the luxurious back with teak table down, food and beverages at the ready. Several times cars and even trucks would slow down to see who was in this Rolls Royce. Dillon would say: ‘Bob, another one’s coming up on the left and looking.’ Bob would grab the Grey Poupon mustard jar from the table, hold it out the window and flash that smile that could stretch from New York to Los Angeles. We played like high school kids all the way to Florida.”

While at Medill, Mulholland was named in the 1952 and 1953 Syllabus yearbooks as one of the top members of the varsity rifle team. At the time, he chose a letter blanket instead of a jacket, but upon returning to Medill to teach, he decided he would like a jacket.

“How many faculty members have an NU letter jacket?” he told the Daily in September of 1989, adding, “Now I can’t wait for the cold.”

That same year, Mulholland spearheaded the expansion of Medill’s quarter-long externship program, then called Teaching Newspaper, to include television stations. He was adamant that the students have a chance to do real broadcast work, telling the Daily Northwestern, “I would like them to go to smaller stations where they will do everything. I don’t want them to go into Chicago where they’ll just stand and watch.” The first five students were placed into television stations in the fall quarter of 1990.

It was also during Mulholland’s tenure that a new studio building was constructed in partnership with the School of Speech, now School of Communication. The building, John J. Louis Hall, opened in the fall of 1991 and featured a state-of-the-art broadcast studio for Medill students, complete with fold-out bleachers so students could watch the productions and carrels for the student reporters to write their stories.

“Bob and I have been friends from the time we met at Medill in 1956,” said friend and MSJ classmate Al Borcover. “From the outset, he was a friendly, professional, humble, funny guy. He was a great scrounger. Shortly after he joined the Medill faculty, I recall that he was able to get a satellite dish (I believe from WGN) to provide live feeds for his students, and an anchor desk that was being discarded by Channel 5. Bob was always a hands-on guy. He was a pro at Medill, WGN, NBC and throughout his life.”

In the spring of 1992, Mulholland spoke to a group of Northwestern students in the Communications Residential College. His talk, “Television in the year 2000,” covered five decades of TV history and included some prophetic forecasts for the future. Accurately, he predicted that fiber-optic cable would create thousands of available channels and total viewer control. “New technology may also allow viewers to ‘punch up’ any program they want, at any time of the day, for a fee,” Mulholland told the students.

Medill Professor Emeritus Donna Leff headed the search committee for Mulholland’s replacement. “​Bob Mulholland was a consummate broadcast professional who brought distinction, honor and considerable joy to Medill,” Leff said. “Although famous, and truly accomplished at the highest levels of network television when network television was the industry’s gold standard, Bob was a dedicated, accessible and beloved teacher.”

He retired from Medill in 1993 and was inducted into the Medill Hall of Achievement’s inaugural class in 1997.

Mulholland is survived by his wife, Judith, of Naples, Florida, daughter, Leslie (Leigh) Anderson (Chris) of Amherst, New Hampshire, son, Todd Mulholland (Licet) of Naples, Florida and stepsons, Michael Holleran of Warrenton, Virginia and Matthew Holleran of Menlo Park and San Francisco, Calif. and seven grandchildren.

Mulholland met Judith while he was working at Medill after NBC. Shortly after, they both retired and moved to Naples, Florida.

About their joint retirement, Judith said, “We took up golf, something neither of us had tried before, and Bob discovered gardening. He loved working in the yard. He enjoyed creating beds of plants, many of which he shared with others and others shared with him. On March 23, we will have been married 30 years.”

About his distinguished career, Judith said, “Bob had an exciting career at NBC, eventually becoming President. During his years there, he helped launch the careers of Tom Brokaw, Bryant Gumbel and Tom Snyder. He negotiated Johnny Carson’s contract in Johnny’s kitchen after one difficult season, just the two of them.”

Photo: Mulholland on the roof of Kresge Hall with new studio building in the background. Undated photo courtesy of the NU Archives. 

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Northwestern News Network Launches New Morning Show Format

Despite the COVID-19 lockdown, the Northwestern News Network (NNN) has continued to produce its top-quality newscasts remotely without a studio. For the first time in its 28-year history, the students created a 90-minute NNN AM news show that mirrors the network morning news programs like “The Today Show” and “Good Morning America.” For the last two weeks the NNN team, working from campus and from their homes around the country and the world, produced stories tackling the serious issues confronting students along with features that demonstrate how campus can joyfully go on.

“NNN AM is serious and refreshing at the same time,” says Associate Professor Larry Stuelpnagel, who serves as faculty adviser for NNN. “The program embodies the best of the skills and values Medill instills in its journalists.”

In this first NNN AM production, the students talk to Asian students at NU about the assaults on Asians around the country and their own fears on the campus. All of the stories and segments are professionally produced and executed, concluding with a report about Medill’s centennial and an interview with Dean Charles Whitaker.

View the 90 minute program: https://fb.watch/44GJI3qp0H/

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Medill professor Brent Huffman releases documentary on Uyghurs in Pakistan

By Jude Cramer (BSJ23)

Medill professor Brent Huffman never shies away from touchy topics as a documentarian, and his most recent work on Uyghurs in Pakistan is no exception.

“I’m attracted to difficult projects. And this one is an extremely difficult one,” he says.

Brent Huffman.
Brent Huffman.

In addition to being a working documentary filmmaker, Huffman teaches documentary theory and production at Medill. His short-form documentary “Uyghurs Who Fled China Now Face Repression in Pakistan” was posted to the VICE News YouTube channel on March 3. It has since garnered over 150,000 views.

Uyghurs are a predominantly Muslim ethnic group native to the Xinjiang region of China. The Chinese government has reportedly detained over 1 million Muslims, the majority of them Uyghurs, in so-called reeducation camps, an act the United States has declared genocide. 

Huffman’s documentary shows that the oppression of Uyghurs doesn’t end at the Chinese border. Those who have fled to nearby Pakistan are also victims of violence, persecution and cultural loss.

Huffman was led to this topic by following a thread from his previous work, the acclaimed 2014 documentary “Saving Mes Aynak,” which tells the story of Afghan archaeologists working to save an ancient city from destruction by a Chinese copper mine. That mine was a part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a modern reimagining of the Silk Road in which Pakistan is a key player.

“In some ways, the persecution of the Uyghurs is part of this massive economic project,” Huffman says. 

He was also drawn to the issue because of its challenging nature.

“A lot of the stories I’m attracted to are human rights stories or social justice stories, but they’re also stories that, you know, people tell me they can’t be told. ‘It’s too difficult, too dangerous, no one will talk to you, you can’t do this,’” he says. “I have some dysfunction in me that, instead of listening to that, that makes me motivated, and it makes me passionate and makes me feel like, ‘Well, then, you know, that’s my role. I have to tell the story, right?’”

So far, Huffman has traveled to Pakistan five times to film. Each time, he’s faced roadblocks including acquiring work visas, filming in restricted locations like the Confucius Institute in Islamabad, and connecting with hard-to-reach sources like controversial Chinese politician Zhao Lijian. 

“Every subject was just extraordinarily difficult to get on camera, to give me permission to talk to them,” he says. “Part of these films is just not giving up, even though all these doors are constantly slammed in your face.”

Brent Huffman filming in Pakistan.
Huffman filming in Pakistan.

One particularly fraught aspect of covering such a volatile topic is protecting vulnerable interview subjects. Being featured in a documentary could put Uyghurs in Pakistan at risk, but they appear in the film because Huffman says it’s essential that the Uyghurs have a voice in their own narrative.

“I’m trying to facilitate this way for them to have their story heard,” he says. “That’s the trick: keeping them safe, but keeping that emotion so audiences can relate to them and feel something for this really tragic story.”

The video released by VICE News is about 20 minutes long, but Huffman plans to complete a full-length version of the documentary once filming can safely resume given the pandemic. Raising awareness of the Uyghurs’ plight is incredibly important, he says.

“This is a genocide that’s occurring, and people need need to know about it. I just hope this is a way to introduce audiences and, again, get them emotionally invested in the subjects and get them to care and get them to want to help. I think that’s my biggest goal,” he says. “It’s an incredible privilege to be able to meet these subjects, to be a part of their lives and to be able to help tell their stories.”

“Uyghurs Who Fled China Now Face Repression in Pakistan” is available now on YouTube.

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Medill professor Ava Greenwell releases documentary “Mandela in Chicago”

By Jude Cramer (BSJ23)

Apartheid may have taken place in South Africa more than 8,000 miles from Chicago, but the two locations, their activism and their social dynamics have much in common. This is the phenomenon Medill professor and alumna Ava Greenwell (BSJ84, MSJ85) set out to capture with her thought-provoking documentary “Mandela in Chicago.”

Greenwell’s film premiered on WTTW on February 14. It tells the story of Nelson Mandela’s 1993 visit to Chicago and its repercussions, but more broadly, it explores the connection between Chicago and South Africa in terms of activism, racism and power.

The documentary includes fascinating archival footage, as well as interviews with Chicagoan and South African activists. 

“I want the people who were on the ground to be able to tell their own story instead of having somebody else narrate it,” Greenwell says. “You know, so often there are documentaries out there about a group, but members of that group don’t get to have a say in how that story gets framed.”

Greenwell was inspired to create the documentary after taking on the role of co-director for Medill’s South Africa Journalism Residency Program. 

“My predecessors would occasionally bring in people from the Chicago area who had connections to South Africa. And it really got me to thinking about, well, what was the Chicago connection here?” she says.

The Chicago connection runs deep, it turns out. In speaking to local activists, Greenwell discovered a little known history, including the travel of enslaved African Americans to South Africa as sailors and performers in the 19th century, and South Africans boarding in Chicago in the 20th. This research arose, in part, from Greenwell’s time in Northwestern’s African American Studies graduate program.

“A lot of the readings and a lot of the work I did in the doctoral program in many ways informed my interest in the historical aspect of this era and this time,” she says.

Greenwell approached the film not just as a Northwestern alumna, but as a Medill professor. Many of Greenwell’s students helped with the film by providing transcriptions, footage and other work.

“Where possible I tried to involve as many Medill students in the project as possible, because I felt as though it’s not just my work, but it’s the work of the entire Northwestern community,” she says.

Northwestern is present on camera as well as behind the scenes. Many of Greenwell’s interviewees have affiliations with the university or other academic institutions, having become education professionals since working as activists in the ‘90s. She refers to these subjects as scholar activists.

“In some ways, it shouldn’t be that surprising that a lot of these people who were so interested in anti-apartheid and what it took to eliminate it were also studying. They were students of the movement, if you will,” she says. “A lot of what they had to do to really get Chicagoans to take notice, is they had to teach.”

Greenwell hopes that the documentary can reintroduce the story of apartheid activism and its principles to a new generation of Northwestern students and Chicagoans, and for them to form connections with South Africans across the Atlantic.

“I would love to have this film be a catalyst to reignite interest in each other, and also begin to think about, how can we finish the work that was started?” she says. “You know, how can we think about all the economic inequities that still exist, both in South Africa and in the United States, and begin to work on solving those problems?”

Ultimately, “Mandela in Chicago” is a love letter to Chicago’s activists, and a testament to the power of journalism as storytelling. 

“Don’t wait to tell your story. Now is the time,” says Greenwell. “And when you tell it, knowing that you can tell it from your own perspective is just ever so gratifying.”

“Mandela in Chicago” is available now on WTTW.

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How I Wrestled with a Childhood Trauma and Turned it into a Book

By Ellen Blum Barish (MSJ84)

If anyone told me that a conversation I would have with a former classmate at my twentieth high school reunion would ultimately lead to writing a full-length book, I would have urged that person to consider writing fiction as the idea showed serious imagination.

But that is, in fact, what happened, and I am compelled to share the story because, after all, Medill grads are storytellers and communicators. How this moment came to be a book is, I believe, an excellent example of the surprising places where story kernels lie, waiting for us to find them and turn them into stories that touch peoples’ lives.

It all began in the front hall of my high school during a conversation with a fellow alum with whom I’d lost touch. We had been friends until one terrible day in the spring of 1972 when, sharing a ride home from school in her mother’s car, we were hit by a Mack truck. That day forever changed her life. I just lost a tooth. But a silence typical of the early 1970s blanketed us, and life went on without us ever speaking about it.

That conversation could easily have been the end of it, but when I discovered a mouthless clay figurine on a shelf in my father’s house that I had made in high school art class, I became consumed with finding out what had happened. It sparked an emotional and spiritual detective story that enabled me to return to the event and the feelings of that 12-year-old girl, and, ultimately, repair a lost friendship.

The story first saw print in a monthly column I was writing for a parenting newspaper two years after the reunion focusing on urging parents to save their children’s art objects (that figurine!) A few months later, it aired as a radio essay, illustrating the way we are silenced. In the years that followed, the story still stalking me, I wrote it as a short story, a long-form personal essay, a poem and in 2015, as a story for the stage.

After all those variations, I thought, I’m done. How much more could I possibly squeeze from this story from my life?

But the story wasn’t done with me. The following year, in 2016, two words seem to fall out of the sky and into my lap: seven springs. It was a title, an organizing principle; a way to tell the story with a longer arc, to dig into the themes of trauma, silencing, friendship and mystery across a twenty-year period. It was then that I first considered that the story wanted to be a long form, a memoir.

The writing began. In 2017, I hired a writing coach. By the summer of 2018, I had a completed first draft and secured an agent. After six months, with no bites from the 15 publishers she queried, we amicably parted ways. I gave some thought to letting the project go, but writer friends encouraged me to stick with it, to consider revising. I revised, sent the manuscript for another set of eyes and revised again. I would revise seven times, which strikes me as appropriate for a book titled Seven Springs, don’t you think?

By May of 2020, just a few months into the pandemic, I sent out what I considered to be a final draft of the memoir, acting as my own agent, to about 15 publishing houses. A month later, two presses made offers. My book found the perfect home at a small independent publishing house, Shanti Arts, and is scheduled for release in May 2021.

The whole process, from that conversation in 1997 to the book’s release this spring, took 24 years. It relied on many sets of eyes. Long stretches of writing, including a two-week residency. Seven drafts. Thirty-plus rejections. A good many tears and more than a few sighs.

The wrestling led to a comforting end. It helped me transform a childhood trauma into something I can call art made of words. The story settled, integrated inside of me. I had made some meaning from it.

A noble purpose for a story that could have easily been missed or set aside.

Maybe even a good reason to go to that next reunion.

Photo Credit: Suzanne Plunkett

www.ellenblumbarish.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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After a Devastating Loss Last Year, I Began Running — and It Transformed My Life

By Michelle Edgar (BSJ05) for POPSUGAR

The last words my stepfather ever spoke to me were uttered between gasps of air from his hospital bed this past January: “Will you move on with your life already?”

Less than two weeks later, I received a call from my mother that my stepfather had gone into hospice. I flew from California to New Jersey to spend his last days together as a family. He passed peacefully in our home, as we held his hand and sang Andrea Bocelli’s “Time to Say Goodbye.” It was one of the most profound moments of my life.

His poignant last words had penetrated me to my core, and now — having sat with them for a few weeks — I knew I needed to find a way to honor him. Still, this was the first significant loss I had experienced in my life, and I needed time and space to heal. I returned to Los Angeles feeling scared and uncertain, knowing my path would inevitably change, though I wasn’t sure how. I prayed for healing and clarity, hoping to find some answers.

On the surface, my life and career appeared stable and successful. As a record executive at Epic Records, I had been working in the music business for more than a decade. I was a doer and goal-oriented, but eventually, I realized I wanted more for my life than just a career. When I got married, I had hoped to be together for a lifetime and to build a foundation to start a family — but now my marriage was in trouble.

My stepfather wanted me to tap into my strength and make the necessary decisions to take control of my life and manifest my dreams. He was trying to tell me to stop fighting a losing battle. I wasn’t yet ready to move on from my marriage, but I decided to make other big, disruptive changes in my life, just as he had challenged me to do. I started asking myself some tough questions: if being married and starting a family wasn’t my path to happiness, what is?Michelle Edgar going under a hurdle.

I chose to focus on taking care of myself. I wasn’t sure what I wanted long-term, but I knew in the short-term, I just wanted to feel happier and more connected to my mind and body. I wanted to feel whole again, and focusing on my physical health seemed like a good place to start. Up until that point, my commitment to fitness had been marginal, as I had other priorities. So, I began attending yoga classes up to a few days a week and working out at the gym weekly.

I realized after my very first workout how cathartic it was to get moving. My brain chemistry had changed, and I knew I needed more of this. What started as an experiment developed into a habit and then a lifestyle. I adjusted my routine to make fitness a priority, climbing into bed by 9:30 so I could get up for my daily training sessions at 6 a.m. before my workday began. When the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered gyms, and I could no longer meet with a trainer in person, I began running. Up to eight miles a day. Exercise made me happy, and I was determined to stick with it, even if I had to do it on my own.

In early April, my trainer challenged me to a 50-mile virtual run with 20 people on the Nike Run app. I was hesitant at first, but then I realized I could probably knock it out in a week. So, I decided to put myself to the test. I made Spotify playlists to fit my mood, so I had something to look forward to each day. Running became my therapy and a way for me to heal. I finished those 50 miles — the first of many I’d run throughout the year.

It was around this time that I decided to have the difficult conversation with my partner about our future together. We decided it would be best to part ways. Getting divorced is hard, and doing it in the midst of a pandemic is harder still, so I took every opportunity to channel my energy into something positive.

I had received a message from UCLA Law School about a new master’s in legal studies program and decided to apply. It was an exciting opportunity to advance my career trajectory, and I was up for an intellectual challenge, in part inspired by my stepfather, who was a chief assistant district attorney. Between the stress of mediation and applying to law school, I needed an outlet — so, I made another commitment: to run on UCLA’s track for an hour each morning. I wanted to see what it would feel like to be a student again, and I guess I hoped I could somehow manifest my acceptance into the program.

In early June, after two weeks of showing up to the track every day, I was approached by Richard Rucker, the head coach of the UCLA Club Track and Field team. I had watched his practices from afar and admired the work he was doing with his athletes. When he asked what I was training for, I said I didn’t know. “Wrong answer,” Coach Rucker said. “Life.” That’s when our journey began.

At age 38, I started training with Coach Rucker for two hours a day. He helped me discover and develop my athletic ability and taught me that it’s never too late to try something new. (“It’s not the age, it’s the stage,” Coach always says.) Two weeks into our training, he handed me a paper with a breakdown of the sprints and said, “How about competing? You ready?” I had never competed in sports before, but I’m always up for a challenge, and I wanted to make my coach proud, so I replied, “Let’s do it.”

I ran the Trojans vs. Bruins Masters Challenge, where I competed in the 50-, 100-, and 500-meter sprints. Soon after I ran my first cross-country race at an elevation of 1,200 feet. By the end of the year, I had run more than 1,000 miles, and I felt stronger, happier and healthier than I had at any point in my life. I was accepted to UCLA, too, and I’ll graduate in two years, with a focus in entertainment and media.

I share this journey in hopes of showing others that even the most challenging times can be a catalyst for change and a source of inspiration, if you allow them to be. You don’t need to take off on an “Eat Pray Love”-style vacation to learn who you are and find your path to health and happiness. You don’t need to run 1,000 miles or go to law school, either. While that was the direction my life took, the opportunities are endless. You simply need to look inward and take care of yourself first, and you’ll find the energy and power to dream again and break new ground.

I’m grateful that this past year gave me time to reflect, to be present, and to appreciate each and every day. Instead of driving to and from work, I was able to take time to grow in new ways, on the track or in the classroom. I no longer rush through my days but take the time to listen to what my mind and body need. I honor my time every day, and I’m very intentional about what will move me closer to achieving my goals and seeing my dreams come to fruition.

I don’t yet know what 2021 will hold — though I’m committed to continuing to train, in hopes of reaching All-American status — but I know that when you allow yourself to be open and step out of your comfort zone, good things happen. If there’s anything these times have taught us, it’s that tomorrow isn’t guaranteed, so start living the life you want today.

https://www.popsugar.com/fitness/how-running-helped-me-cope-with-loss-in-2020-48083455

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Peter Jacobi (BSJ52, MSJ53) – Medill Professor and Associate Dean

Peter Jacobi (BSJ52, MSJ53), former longtime Medill professor and associate dean, died on December 24, 2019. He was 89. Jacobi was a member of the inaugural class of the Medill Hall of Achievement of 1997 and served on the Medill faculty from 1955 to 1981. He joined the journalism faculty at Indiana University in 1985.

Jacobi’s two guidebooks, “The Magazine Article: How to Think It, Plan It, Write It” and “Writing with Style: The News Story and the Feature,” are standard reference sources for journalists. In 2006 Jacobi received the School of Continuing Studies Teaching Excellence Award from Indiana University.

Jacobi was professor emeritus of journalism at Indiana University and a regular reviewer/contributor to The Herald-Times in Bloomington up until his death.

The final installment of his local newspaper column, “Music Beat,” appeared on Dec. 15, 2019 and previewed that afternoon’s Bloomington Chamber Singers’ performance of George Frideric Handel’s oratorio “Messiah.”

Peter Paul Jacobi was born March 15, 1930, in Berlin and came to the United States at age 8.

Jacobi joined the Medill faculty in 1955, working his way up from a professional lecturer to his position as associate dean. After leaving Medill in 1985, he worked as a consultant before joining the Indiana faculty where the taught until receiving emeritus status in 2017.
Jacobi was a member of the American Association of University Professors, the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the Society of Professional Journalists, Arts Midwest, the Bloomington Community Arts Commission and the Indiana Arts Commission, where he was chairman from 1990 to 1993.

He is survived by two sons, Keith Jacobi and Wyn Jacobi, and three grandchildren. Jacobi’s wife, Hattie, whom he met more than 70 years ago, died on Sept. 30, 2019.

Faculty remembrances of Peter Jacobi:
Roger Boye, Associate Professor Emeritus-in-Service
Peter Jacobi was a master teacher, a brilliant lecturer, the proverbial “scholar and a gentleman.” Generations of Medill students owe so much to this man.
I once heard him give a lecture in mid summer in an un-airconditioned room with no slides or visual aids to nearly 100 people who listened in rapt attention for 90 minutes. He was that good.
In 1972, he did a piece for Quill magazine on what it means to be a teacher of journalism, still the best article of its kind ever written. Subconsciously, he must have been describing himself when he wrote:
“To be a journalism teacher at college or high school level, one must be alert to life and living, an embracer of imagination, open to suggestion, free and careful with advice, scholarly in one’s approach to constant and persistent learning.

“A teacher who truly teaches is unsparing of time and the expenditure of energy toward students, helpful, encouraging, young in thought and receptivity, gently authoritative, flexible, never satisfied with himself.
“The journalism teacher has learned to practice his profession and continues to practice it; he does not teach from textbooks. He’s thought about journalism’s glories and its flaws. He has the missionary zeal to improve a human activity that he loves.”
Just a few weeks before the 1978 national convention of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), the speaker for the awards banquet cancelled, leaving organizers scrambling for a replacement. They asked Peter Jacobi based entirely on his reputation; they had never before heard him speak. And as the big event drew closer, they began second-guessing their decision. But Peter did not let them down. He received a rousing standing ovation from several hundred journalists—the only one of six major speakers during that convention so honored. The Quill magazine ran his speech as its cover story in January 1979.
“In our search for the abnormal, the unusual, the eccentric, the different, don’t just look for those people and happenings that are abnormally bad, usually awful, eccentrically negative, differently evil,” he told the convention. “Look for what and who are abnormally good, unusually useful, abnormally fascinating, differently inspirational. Look for good news, in other words, not just bad. But look for news more than we look for pap.”
He also called on journalists to “love words. Sure, appreciate pictures, film, tape. But love words. As long as we remember the value of words and fight viciously against cheapening them, then we’re likely to treat the press with the kind of respect that defeats abuse. Looking toward tomorrow, abuse abuse. In fact, stamp it out.”

David Nelson, Associate Professor Emeritus
In 1964 I learned to take risks in writing: Peter Jacobi taught that class. In 1968 I learned that in any creative craft it’s OK to make a fool of yourself as you experiment and grow in that effort: Peter Jacobi taught that class. When I learned of his death, I remembered that Prof. Jacobi introduced me to Beethoven. Naturally, I played “Missa Solemnis” in tribute.

https://www.hoosiertimes.com/herald_times_online/news/local/journalist-and-music-reviewer-peter-jacobi-dies-at/article_31d5ca8a-2821-11ea-95c2-13a214232720.html