Northwestern Alumni Medalist panel members reflect on careers, college experience


Madison Bratley/The Daily Northwestern

Alumni medalists David Louie, Jeff Ubben and Cindy Chupack clap onstage with University President Michael Schill during Friday’s panel discussion.

William Tong, Reporter

Recipients of the 2022 Northwestern Alumni Medal spoke in a Friday discussion about their college experiences and careers. 

The Northwestern Alumni Association and University President Michael Schill granted the annual award to Cindy Chupack (Medill ’87), David Louie (Medill ’72) and Jeff Ubben (Kellogg ’87). The award honors alumni who have had impactful careers or contributed significant service and support to the University. 

Larry Irving (Weinberg ’76), former NAA president, said there are key similarities between the award recipients.

“The NAA medalists are folks who realize dreams to the ultimate, who did something remarkable that reflects well on them, on the University and on society,” Irving told The Daily.

The panelists received the award the previous night at a dinner with University leaders, alumni and select students.

Schill initiated the conversation by asking Ubben, a veteran investor, about his focus on socially conscious investing. Ubben said he realized the shareholder-focused financial market was enabling climate change, pollution and other social repercussions.

“Capitalism is not working the way it’s supposed to,” Ubben said. “So I replaced my shareholder orientation with activism around stakeholders.”

Ubben and his wife have invested $5.5 million in the Program for Climate and Carbon Science at NU’s Institute for Sustainability and Energy. The couple also pledged $50 million in 2019 to support student scholarships, among other donations. 

Louie, who has spent five decades as a broadcast reporter in the Bay Area and served as national president of the Asian American Journalists Association, said growing up, he didn’t see a lot of journalists who looked like him. As a result, his supervisors made “mistakes” in how they treated him when he joined the industry, like displaying his name in Mandarin on newscasts.

“My Chinese name has nothing to do with ‘David Louie,’” he said. “What my bosses didn’t know was how to integrate me into the news process. They wanted to showcase me, but they didn’t know how to do it effectively.” 

He also said he had to navigate balancing reporting in depth on the Asian American community with covering all communities.

Louie said the most memorable stories  spotlighted uncomfortable topics so that communities could address them, including early coverage of toxic shock syndrome, a bacterial infection often caused by faulty menstrual products. 

“It made some people feel empowered to discuss an important subject about their own bodies,” Louie said. 

Likewise, much of Chupack’s work as a television writer and producer discusses uncomfortable topics, including in Emmy-winning work for “Sex and the City.”

Because she wrote beyond traditionally white, male-determined comedy tropes, Chupack said she was able to bring refreshing ideas to the screen. 

“It hit on a lot of issues that hadn’t been talked about,” she said. “It was not necessarily what women were talking about but what women were thinking. It got the conversation going.” 

This writing niche took her a long time to find, Chupack said. She first entered Medill because she thought journalism was a financially sound writing career. However, after sending magazine samples to producers and co-writing TV scripts, she discovered her passion for fiction writing. 

Chupack and Louie encouraged students to try everything NU has to offer. 

“Don’t be worried about failing,” Chupack told The Daily. “Don’t be worried about looking silly. Anything that sounds fun, maybe even scary, try it.”

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @william2tong

Related Stories: 

Students and alumni to celebrate Homecoming week with food trucks, tailgates and football

NU alumni’s book subscription box provides diverse books to subscribers and underserved children

Ten famous alumni you didn’t realize went to Northwestern