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Murray Olderman (MSJ47)

Murray Olderman, an author and journalist who for more than six decades chronicled the sports world with his nationally syndicated cartoons in addition to writing features and columns, died on Wednesday in Rancho Mirage, Calif. He was 98.

Olderman was inducted into Medill’s Hall of Achievement in 2015. He traveled to Chicago to receive his award.

Olderman graduated as a journalism major from the University of Missouri. He received another bachelor’s degree from Stanford, where he studied French in a World War II Army program and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. After the war, he obtained his master’s from Medill.

From Mickey Mantle to Joe Namath and Bear Bryant to Tiger Woods, Olderman  covered them all. For 35 years he was a syndicated columnist and cartoonist whose work was distributed by Newspaper Enterprise Association to 650 daily newspapers. After serving as executive editor of NEA, he retired from the syndicate but remains active as a writer and artist.

One of the leading national authorities on pro football, Olderman was a past president of the Football Writers Association of America and the founder of the Jim Thorpe Trophy (for the NFL’s most valuable player) and the Maurice Podoloff Trophy (for the NBA’s MVP). His football murals hang in the Pro Football Hall of Fame at Canton, Ohio. He was inducted into the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Hall of Fame, the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame, and is in the writers’ wing of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

In 2013, he published a personal account of his time in the war. “A year apart…Letters from War-Torn Europe,” featured his letters to his wife written from Europe at the end of World War II with added insight into his experience abroad and his family.

He is survived by his daughter Lorraine and another daughter, Marcia Linn; a son, Mark; a sister, Diane Morton; five grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. His wife, Nancy (Calhoun) Olderman, died in 2011.

Photo: Taya Lynn Gray/The Desert Sun

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Joe Ruklick (MSJ90)

Former Northwestern basketball star Joe Ruklick died of natural causes Thursday, September 17, 2020. He was 82.

Rucklick played for the Wildcats from 1956-59 and was an All-American as a senior. The 6-foot-10 center said he was better known as a “walking footnote.” 

He was proud to have taken part in one of the NBA’s most iconic moments — assisting on Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain’s 99th and 100th points in a record-setting game for the Philadelphia Warriors on March 2, 1962, against the New York Knicks. 

“I was wide open,” Ruklick recalled in a 2016 interview with the Chicago Tribune. “I’m looking at the New York players who will not yield. I don’t know what I thought, but I knew I had to get the ball to Wilt. There were 46 seconds to go, and there’s a guy hanging on his left hip. He went, ‘Woo!’ and that meant he was open briefly. There were his hands, and I got the ball to him. And he scored.”

Ruklick said he patiently waited by the scorer’s table to make sure his assist was properly recorded. 

Ruklick, a Princeton, Illinois, native, averaged 19.9 points and 13.2 rebounds in three seasons at Northwestern — including 23 and 13 in 1958-59. The Warriors selected Ruklick in the second round (ninth overall) of the 1959 draft, and he played sparingly in three seasons. He said the pay was lousy and he morally objected to team owners wanting to keep him on the roster to appease fans who didn’t want too many Black players at the time.

“Many of them didn’t think there would be more than a handful of Black players every year,” he told the Tribune. “They thought: ‘Chamberlain is a freak. We’ll never see another Bill Russell.’ That’s how dumb we were back then. People were ugly sometimes. But it was as common as the morning sunshine.”

Chamberlain and Ruklick, who had played against each other in college when Chamberlain was at Kansas, remained friends until Chamberlain’s death in 1999.

After his NBA career, Ruklick became an investment banker and a father of three. He earned a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern at 50, later working at newspapers such as the Chicago Defender. Ruklick lived in Evanston and often attended Northwestern games as a reporter for the Aurora Voice.

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Ed Bryant (BSJ63, LAW67)

Ed Bryant, who served on the Students Publishing Company board of directors for 48 years, died Sept. 20. He was 78.

Story by Isabelle Sarraf, (BSJ23) Campus Editor, Daily Northwestern

Serving on the board of Students Publishing Company for 48 years, Ed Bryant’s colleagues pegged his commitment and longevity to The Daily Northwestern’s “legacy of journalistic excellence” as typical of his character.

A former opinion writer at The Daily in the 1960s, the Medill and Pritzker alum joined the SPC board of directors — The Daily’s governing body — in 1972.

“To say he was the pillar of the organization would be an understatement,” John Byrne, chair of the SPC board of directors and former Daily editor in chief, said of Bryant’s legacy.

L. Edward Bryant, Jr., an “instrumental” force behind SPC’s evolution and survival, died unexpectedly of a new recurrence of cancer Sept. 20 at the age of 78. He is survived by his three daughters, Laura, Diane and Emily, as well as two grandchildren, Sydney and Miles.

Once a Wildcat, always a Wildcat

Byrne, who knew Bryant since 1989, said Bryant always cared deeply for The Daily as an institution and ensured it endured for generations to come.

Bryant was one of the driving forces of the Campaign for the Future of The Daily Northwestern in 2014 — a move to transition The Daily’s business model to a digital one that relied only on advertising revenue to pay the bills. Bryant understood early on, Byrne said, that the future of print advertising was in trouble, and his foresight helped shape what The Daily is today.

“He was terrific to work with on the board, always listening, but also providing historical perspective that literally cannot be replaced,” Byrne said. “He often had a good story or anecdote to share, pretty much given whatever subject we were discussing, but it was clear that the Wildcats were so near and dear to his heart.”

A lifelong supporter of Northwestern, Bryant had been a football season ticket holder since 1963. According to an obituary written by his daughters, he was a proud Evanston resident for 61 years and “appreciated the diversity and community spirit” — especially the annual 4th of July parades.

He also often spent weekends with his family at Rock Haven, a lakeside cottage in Wisconsin, nicknamed “The Purple Palace” due to its decor. Its walls were fully adorned in purple — a tribute “to his beloved Wildcats.”

An “indomitable spirit”

Medill Dean Charles Whitaker met Bryant in 2003 when he joined the SPC board of directors and remembers Bryant’s “thoughtful presence” throughout the years in steering the company. Bryant was the board’s “de facto” libel attorney, as well as a trustworthy counselor and advisor when it came to selecting editors in chief, Whitaker said.

Even when Whitaker stepped down from the board, he and Bryant remained close. Always a supporter of student journalism, Bryant would share stories written in The Daily with Whitaker that he would find interesting or important and engage in conversations about the publishing industry. Outside of his role on SPC, Bryant was also well-known for his dedication to a particular hobby.

Bryant’s joy of fishing never wavered, according to his colleagues, evident from the “several” trips he made every year.

“In the entire time that I knew him, he was always battling cancer of one form or another, but he was always hearty and happy,” Whitaker said. “Once after a particularly difficult bout of (chemotherapy) — he was as upbeat as he always was — I asked him how he was doing and he said he was going fishing.”

The entire time he was battling cancer, Whitaker said Bryant would “never” miss a trip and always make a point to set out on Lake Michigan. Bryant’s perseverance and unwavering morale, Whitaker said, is something he’s always admired.

A “storied” legal career

After graduating from NU, Bryant started his legal career at Gardner Carton & Douglas in 1967 and worked in the field until 2010. At the firm, he founded its Health Care Practice in 1979 and served as the chair of the Health Care Department years thereafter, also serving on the firm’s Management Committee.

Over the course of his career, he served on the faculty of Loyola University Chicago’s School of Law and the Kellogg School of Management. In 2011, the L. Edward Bryant, Jr. National Health Law Transactional Competition was established by Loyola to engage law students in dialogue with practitioners in a real-world setting about legal issues pertaining to health care providers.

In 1985, Bryant was named as one of the most outstanding health lawyers in the country by the National Law Journal, and then again in 1991 by both the Illinois Legal Times and Chicago Lawyer Magazine.

According to Edwin Getz, his partner at Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath — GCD’s successor firm — Bryant counseled clients on hundreds of health care industry restructurings, hospital and health system mergers, and more. Many of his cases in health law involved some of the largest health care providers in the country, Getz wrote.

Not only was he admired and widely respected by his clients and colleagues, but Getz added that Bryant is “widely and justifiably regarded” as having originated the discipline of health law.

“(Bryant) cared deeply about (the firm’s) people, no matter their position at the firm or station in life,” Getz told The Daily. “He always made it his highest priority, regardless of his frenetic schedule, to devote the time to mentor colleagues and friends who sought out his guidance, especially young lawyers.”

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Ed Bryant, left, honors former SPC Board Chair and current Medill Dean Charles Whitaker, right, at The Daily’s 2018 Homecoming Celebration. (SeanSuPhoto | PurplePhotoCo)

Story republished with permission from The Daily 9/25/2020

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Eric B. English (BSJ88)

By Caitlyn French for MLive

Eric B. English died of a heart attack Saturday, Jan. 23, 2021, at McLaren Bay Region Hospital. He was 54 years old.

“He loved journalism and he loved the practice of journalism, and that will be his legacy,” said John Hiner, vice president of content for MLive, who worked with English for nearly three decades.

English was born in Wyandotte, Michigan, on March 18, 1966, and graduated from Trenton High School, later attending the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. After he graduated from Northwestern in 1988, he was hired by The Bay City Times in Bay City, Michigan, and ran its Tawas City bureau until 2007, when he became a business reporter for the paper.

He later served as an assistant community editor for The Saginaw News and The Bay City Times from 2009 until 2012 and as a managing producer from 2012 through 2016. In 2016, he served as the news leader in MLive’s Ann Arbor News office until returning to Saginaw and Bay City in 2018.

English’s wife, Kathy English, emphasized her husband’s dedication to journalism and the variety of work he did during his career. She recalled that he once flew on a B-52 that was set to be retired and he also scored a ride with the Navy’s Blue Angels flight team.

“There’s just so much that he did and covered in news, I have notebooks and notebooks and notebooks full of his articles that he saved from day one,” Kathy English says.

Outside of work, English was an avid outdoorsman who enjoyed hunting, fishing and gardening. Kathy English refers to him as a regular Johnny Appleseed and says he really enjoyed the ‘Up North’ life.

Eric English was more than a journalist and lover of the outdoors — he was a dad through and through. His daughter, Holly, 23, says her father was quite supportive of her ideas and endeavors and that he would often ‘adopt’ her friends, who tended to call him their second dad.

“What I’ll remember most about my dad is he always gave 110% of himself to whatever he was doing, whether that be working on a story or being a dad,” Holly English says.

In 2012, the English family lost their son and brother, 10-year-old David, after a 19-month battle with a brain tumor.

Many of English’s co-workers and former colleagues recalled fond memories of his presence and dedication in the newsroom while expressing their grief over the loss.

Former Bay City Times editor Rob Clark worked side by side with English and refers to him as one of his closest friends. The two were making plans to reconnect this summer if restrictions eased from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Eric was one of the smartest, most talented people and journalists that I’ve ever known,” Clark says. “This guy was a total workhorse and he knew how to manage people. He knew how to get the best stories, he could write, he could edit. He was just a phenomenal guy to have on your team, to have as a teammate.”

Clark adds, “Just an amazing person, an amazing human being gone way, way, way too soon.”

English served as a mentor for numerous reporters throughout his career. Reporter Cole Waterman reflected on the impact that English left and what it will be like moving forward.

“Simply put, I can’t yet fathom the idea of working without him, without his guiding presence. I expect I’ll feel like a ship without its rudder,” Waterman says. “He will leave an Eric-shaped void that will be impossible to fill.”

Waterman recalled his first interaction with English back in 2009, which set the stage for a long-standing camaraderie.

“I was awkwardly sitting at my newly assigned desk, nervous as hell, feeling over my head with imposter syndrome, when he walked over, shaking his head in his uniquely world-weary way,” Waterman says. “I don’t think he even introduced himself as he started talking to me, grumbling about this and that as though I’d been a longtime colleague of his. Weirdly, his brusque manner put me right at ease.”

Colleague Bernie Eng echoed similar thoughts on English’s unique but endearing mannerisms and the impact he had.

“In the years I’ve known him, Eric didn’t sugarcoat a darn thing, and he wouldn’t want me to now,” Eng says. “But I watched that cranky and cynical façade make him one of the most compassionate and caring people I’ve ever met. His love and concern for his family, coworkers, staff and the communities and people he and his staff reported about is unsurpassed. Eric truly made a difference.”

Despite MLive’s staff working at home since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, English still managed to bring smiles to the faces of staff during digital meetings.

“Working from home the past few months has been hard for our MLive crew,” says Kelly Frick, senior news director for MLive. “But there wasn’t a day when Eric didn’t make all of the editors around the state laugh with a good one-liner in our morning chat. Personally, having worked closely with him for all of my career, I am struggling to imagine life without him.”

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Tom Perrotta (BSJ98)

By Jason Gay for the Wall Street Journal

Our friend Tom Perrotta died Wednesday, January 6, 2021, at age 44, and if you never got a chance to meet him, all I can say is I wish you had. 

If you read this newspaper, you got to know Tom through his tennis reporting, which was smart and thorough, rich with the sort of detail you don’t notice unless you’re around the sport all the time, which Tom was. Tom was always there, which was how he got to know Roger Federer. It’s how he knew Serena Williams, too. But he also knew the many players who never cracked the top 400, as well as the parents, coaches, trainers, umpires, and all the employees behind the scenes who make the tournaments happen. Tennis has a lot more of those people than it does legends and superheroes, and every one of them was important to Tom. 

The man himself? He was aces. Tom was the Journal’s top writer at all the major tennis events, which meant that when the match ended — the moment when Federer raised his arms in triumph, or Rafael Nadal rolled to the red dirt in disbelief — it was Tom’s job to immediately render what happened and hit the send button, within a few minutes. There is pressure in that job. People can freak out. It isn’t uncommon, at a big sporting event, to see a reporter comically lose it on deadline. Tom didn’t lose it. He was unflappable, kind to colleagues and competitors, even when crunching a deadline. You could walk up to him right as a match concluded — he’d be typing away, an editor breathing down his neck, and you could ask him something unrelated, something totally unnecessary, like who won the Australian Open in 2009, and what time was the next LIRR back to Penn Station, and Tom would pause for a second, and say: I think that year was Rafa and Serena. And I’m pretty sure there’s a train at 9:33. Then click! He’d hit send on his own piece, which was always magic, a standard we aspired to. 

Here’s a little secret about what it’s like to cover one of those major tennis tournaments: It’s just as great as it sounds. It isn’t like the job doesn’t have its hassles, or bad days, but most of the time, it feels like you’re getting away with something. Tom had the fortune to come up at a time when tennis had ascended to an epic moment, surrounded by icons like Venus and Serena, Roger and Rafa, Andy and Novak. He had a front-row seat to a generation of players who will be talked about 100 years from now. Sometimes, I would catch Tom’s eye during one of those crazy matches, when the players were cramping, going back and forth like  prizefighters, and the stadium felt like it was about to lift off from all the crowd energy, and he’d give me this look that said: I can’t believe we get to do this. How lucky are we?

He got sick, diagnosed with a brain tumor at age 40, and he fought and fought, rallying that first season to make it to the U.S. Open, and then do nearly a full calendar of majors. The job got harder, which frustrated him, but what anchored him was his family: his wife, Rachel, and his two sons, Paul and Sean. They were everything to him. Over the past year, Tom often told me he was grateful for how the world had slowed down a bit, because it meant he could be at home with his family, a feeling he described in his final piece for the Journal. He was so young, and he’d been dealt a terribly unfair hand — it angered him; he confided that, too — but there were still moments he felt like a lucky guy. 

Tom Perrotta in Paris

This is how I want to remember him: This was a few years ago, in Paris, amid the French Open — he’d been through a wave of treatments, and he was feeling better, more himself, and leaving Roland Garros in the early evening, he was excited, because Rachel had flown into town. Tom picked out this place for all of us to go to dinner, not far from the Champs-Élysées, and we waited outside for a table for what seemed like hours, but we didn’t care, because it was one of those June twilights when the sun wasn’t in any kind of hurry, and more important: Rachel was here! Tom was so happy. Who could complain? A retired tennis pro walked by on the sidewalk, and Tom walked over and said a quick hello. It felt like Tom’s town, even if it wasn’t. 

We sat down to dinner, late, and the meal went on and on, with dessert, and maybe a little more dessert, because why not? No one says this sort of thing in the moment, but in the back of your mind, you’re thinking: How many nights like this are we going to get? 

When we finally paid the check and stepped outside, it was dark, and it was now raining, in the dreamy way you hope it rains in Paris. I asked Tom if he thought they were going to be able to play tennis tomorrow, and he said, who knows, he’d be there. He was always there. He smiled, and then he and Rachel walked off into the rain.