Medill alumni, students and faculty gather to celebrate school’s centennial


Seeger Gray/The Daily Northwestern

The screens in the McCormick Foundation Center display graphics celebrating the Medill Centennial.

Logan Schiciano, Reporter

Forty years ago, Charles Whitaker (Medill ’80, ’81) graduated from Northwestern with two degrees and set off to his first reporting job at the Miami Herald.

His time in professional journalism was wide-ranging, covering everything from politics to education for numerous publications. Ultimately, he ended up right back where he started: the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. Now, Whitaker is dean of the school at which he not only learned, but taught for decades.

Whitaker and hundreds of other Medill alumni, current students and faculty gathered outside the McCormick Foundation Center on Friday to commemorate the school’s centennial. 

The event, part of the University’s Homecoming and Reunion Weekend festivities, included live music, catered appetizers and beverages and a speech by Whitaker.

For some attendees, the celebration marked their first time back on campus in decades. Kevin Sherry (Weinberg ’93, Medill ’95) frequents Evanston, but said this visit was still significant for him. 

“It’s fun to get together with all your old friends and retrace your steps back to where you first met,” Sherry said. “Northwestern is home to so many people — even if I don’t know the person next to me, it’s great to feel like family.” 

Whitaker, the first alumnus to become the journalism school’s dean, highlighted Medill’s legacy and its students during his speech. He also noted Medill’s annual fund increased by 23% since last year.  

In addition, Whitaker previewed several new initiatives, including the launch of a third master’s degree program in digital media strategy, a new audio and podcast program in collaboration with the School of Communication and the opening of a Medill outpost in New York City this spring. 

“We’ve had an exciting and unparalleled past, but I’m also happy to say we have an unlimited future,” Whitaker said.

He also praised the University’s student-run media outlets as well as cornerstone programs like the Journalism Residency, which attendee Jeffrey Kosnett (Medill ’76) said helped him secure his current job. 

Kosnett completed his JR at the Evansville Press — now the Evansville Courier & Press — and currently serves as a senior editor at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, a finance magazine.

“(During Journalism Residency), you’re out there alone dealing with tough stories and real-life situations,” he said. “That experience was invaluable, and I would do it all over again.”

USA Today sports columnist Christine Brennan (Medill ’80, ’81), who has covered every Olympics since 1984, said the skills she learned in Medill still guide her work today. 

“All these years later, Medill is paying dividends for me and reminding me how to be a good journalist, which is really, really amazing — but also no surprise, because Medill is the best,” Brennan said. 

David Mazie (Medill ’55), who has seen Medill through over half of its history, put the past century in perspective. 

A former reporter for the Associated Press and Minneapolis Star Tribune, Mazie said he believes Medill plays a more crucial role in an era where journalists are held to high standards. 

“(Medill) is stronger than it has been in 100 years,” Mazie said.

Email: l[email protected]

Twitter: @loganschiciano

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