Northern Star Hall of Fame inducts six alums

Northern Star Hall of Fame logoThe Northern Star indcuted six alumni into its Hall of Fame during a Saturday, Feb. 26, banquet.

The Northern Star Hall of Fame honors former students, advisers and friends of the Northern Star who significantly affected the Northern Star, journalism or related fields, or who have otherwise received acclaim based in part on experience gained at the Northern Star.

Created in 2000, the Hall of Fame serves as a means to keep alumni actively involved in support of the Northern Star and to encourage Northern Star students toward excellence in their chosen career paths.

Inductees are chosen by an alumni board. A new class is indcuted every two years.

Here is a closer look at this year’s group.

Eileen Norris

Eileen Norris
Eileen Norris

Eileen Norris may not be famous, but she could write the book on successfully managing a journalism career and parenthood.

Eileen was not originally on a track to attend college. After high school she found work as a secretary, and eventually took some classes at Triton Community College. There, a professor pulled her aside and told her she should pursue a writing career.

Three years behind her high-school classmates, Eileen entered NIU not knowing a soul. In a journalism class, Dr. Avi Bass encouraged her to apply at the Northern Star. She was hired as the Star’s police reporter. “I’m pretty sure it was because I had a car,” she says. She wound up spending the rest of her college career in a variety of Star roles. She credits Adviser Jerry Thompson with showing her the way. “He was unbelievably kind and smart.”

“The Star was a place to belong. I had never been part of a group or a clique before,” she says. “These were people who were passionate about doing good.”

After graduation and early stints at the Suburban Tribune and Crain’s, she moved to the American Medical Association, where she was senior editor of the AMA Encyclopedia of Medicine. Much of Eileen’s professional journalism career has been free-lancing, emphasizing health topics. She’s developed, edited or written several widely known health books. She was managing editor for “You: The Smart Patient,” a 2006 New York Times Best Seller by Drs. Mehmet Oz and Mike Roizen.

She was lead writer for 2010’s “The Smart Parent’s Guide to Children’s Health Care: An Insider’s Guidebook for Getting Your Kids Through Illnesses, Accidents and Checkups,” by Dr. Jennifer Trachtenberg. Due out this April: a book she edited, “The Available Parent: Radical Optimism in Raising Teens and Tweens,” by Dr. John Duffy.

Eileen knows that working behind the scenes as a writer or editor often means others get credit for the heavy lifting. But bylines aren’t as big a deal for her anymore.

“I think your first five to 10 years out of school you’re really keen on that. But it’s not all that critical. The work is most important.”

“My best double byline was having the kids.”

Eileen and her husband, Bruce Dold, editorial page editor for the Chicago Tribune, have two daughters, ages 26 and 24. Both have incorporated writing into their young careers.

“The kids saw the potential,” she says. “A writing and reporting background is something you can take through life and still do other things. We never pushed them. I just think they saw that we really loved what we did.

“It’s a great career for having it all. I could be a mom, and show up at those 3:30 volleyball games, and also have something to talk about at parties.”

Bob Palermini

Bob Palermini
Bob Palermini

During his 30-plus year newspaper career, Bob Palermini transformed his role from journalist to technology leader at newspapers ranging from a rural Illinois weekly to the Los Angeles Times.

Growing up in suburban Westchester, Bob loved to take photographs. He became a staff photographer for, and eventually editor of, his high school newspaper. The opportunity to express his creativity while documenting his world proved thrilling.

So during his NIU freshman orientation in the summer of 1974, before the photojournalism major took even one class in DeKalb, he snagged a job at the Northern Star.

“I wanted to be a journalist, and NIU was definitely one of the top places in Illinois to go for that,” Bob says. “The best part about the Star was that it was real-life newspapering. We were a dedicated group who put in crazy hours, cared about the product and really cared about doing journalism – good journalism.”

When he left NIU in 1977, he became editor of the tiny Tri-County Press in Polo – a newspaper that understood the role of community journalism and the importance of photographs in that mission.

He eventually put down his camera, except during Friday night football games, and led the business and production operations of the three small newspapers plus commercial printing venture as publisher.

“My interest in technology came from the photography,” he says. “A lot of photographers led the way and became the technology leaders at their papers.”

Bob went on to manage production and technology at various Shaw Newspapers and then landed a job with Tribune Company at their Newport News, Virginia paper. This led to bigger jobs in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and then back in Chicago at the corporate office.

In 2000 when Tribune purchased Times Mirror, he moved to Los Angeles to become Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at the Times and later Vice President of Technology for all nine Tribune papers. There he directed a project to implement and operate one of the largest newspaper editorial systems in the world, serving more than 3,000 journalists.

Two years ago, not enjoying the changes in his industry, he left the Times to become Vice President for Planning and Technology at Volunteers of America of Greater Los Angeles. It reminds him of his early days at the Tri-County Press: improving the lives of people in the place where he lives.

Bob and Tracy, his wife of 33 years, are parents to 23-year-old Stephanie, a recent University of Southern California graduate.

Maria Phillips

Maria Phillips
Maria Phillips

Family connection is the reason why Maria became a Northern Star “guru.”

John Phillips, Maria’s older brother, often talked about the good experience he got at the Northern Star and encouraged his sister to apply. She did, and became one of the Star’ best sales representatives. She was promoted to assistant ad manager for 1996-97.

Maria remembers a fun experience at the newspaper, from the camaraderie with other advertising staffers to trips to the Chicago Tribune.

“I still remember when Rich Schovanec from the Tribune would come to the Star to help with training,” she says. “He was such an inspirational speaker, and he was fun. Those sessions at the Crystal Pistol after training … well, they were just special.”

“I remember when I made a good commission I would take the production kids out,” she adds. “I learned then to appreciate those who make my job easier. But it wasn’t only that. The Star gives you confidence to go out and actually accomplish what you set out to do.”

Maria graduated in 1997 with a major in corporate communications. She landed a job at the Chicago Sun-Times, a company that usually did not hire brand-new grads. But, the Star experience gave her the edge. At the Sun-Times, she was a retail account manager and in 1997 surpassed her quota by 31 percent. In 1998, while exceeding her yearly sales quota again, she helped launch a new Recruitment section, educating agencies on the new product. She was promoted to National Account Manager, and again surpassed sales goals.

In 1999, Maria joined Landon Media Group as National Account Manager, responsible for healthcare and telecommunication categories for 14 major-market newspapers. In 2000 she received the Special Sales Recognition Award, an award bestowed by clients.

In 2000 she was hired by Sports Illustrated Women and Sports Illustrated For Kids (Time Inc. titles) as account manager. By January 2002 she worked exclusively for Sports Illustrated for Kids as the Midwest Sales Manager. Her performance led to the 2007 promotion to Corporate Sales Director Midwest for Time Inc., a position she currently holds. Maria received the “Marlin Award” for effective development and execution of marketing programs for clients.

Maria thrives in using her creativity to develop ideas and strategies to help clients achieve their marketing goals. She particularly enjoys the challenges presented by today’s business environment.

Maria lives in Chicago with her husband, Dennis. 

Mark Ridolfi

Mark Ridolfi
Mark Ridolfi

In high school, Mark Ridolfi ran a vending box route for the Indianapolis News, an afternoon paper with an avid following.

“We’d race from the downtown loading dock out the east side, aiming to beat the end-of-shift whistle at RCA and other manufacturing plants,” he recalls. “Every day, I’d be surrounded by plant workers who couldn’t wait for their paper.”

And, he would read the paper cover-to-cover between stops.

“The deadline rush and daily encounters with quarter-carrying newspaper customers pretty much assured my career choice,” he says.

After Mark’s parents moved to the Chicago area during his senior year of high school, Mark elected to stay in Illinois for college: first at the U of I’s Circle Campus, then College of DuPage and finally NIU for his final two years. In a dilapidated house called Campbell Hall, he found a home.

“It was a night-and-day difference when I walked into the Northern Star,” he said. “It was a bunch of crazy, long-haired students working their butts off. Making decisions – not relying on someone else to make them.”

Adviser Jerry Thompson was a constant presence, too, teaching students to think like journalists.

“The Star had covered a big fire on Greek Row,” Mark says. “I came in the next day and said I was going to go check on fire damage. Jerry said, ‘I guess that would be a story. But a real reporter would go check the inspection dates on fire extinguishers around town.’ So I did, and sure enough, some were out of date.”

Those reporting skills served Mark after graduation, when he took a job with the Moline Dispatch. After that came a stint as Quad Cities bureau manager for United Press International. When UPI’s existence became shaky, Mark returned to the Dispatch as a reporter and later city editor.

In 1987, he returned to Indianapolis, as assistant city editor for the paper he’d once delivered. But in 1993 he went to the Quad City Times in Davenport, Iowa. He’s been there ever since, first as city editor and, since 2002, as editorial page editor.

Mark’s editorial page work won first-place awards from the Illinois Press Association in 2002 and the Iowa Newspaper Association in 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011.

He’s been on the Mid America Press Institute board for 11 years, serving one term as president. He’s also a journalism educator, having advising the student newspapers at Blackhawk Community College and Augustana College, and teaching interactive journalism at Knox College in Galesburg.

Barry Rozner

Barry Rozner
Barry Rozner

Barry Rozner knows he has a sports fan’s dream job. The Daily Herald columnist, Chicago radio host and book author has enjoyed a front-row seat to sports history. It’s occurred to him as he sat at a table in Cooperstown with Hank Aaron, Billy Williams and Andre Dawson. Or during one of the many times he’s walked 18 holes covering Tiger Woods. Or the first time he was in the same room as the Stanley Cup.

“I consider it an absolute privilege,” he says.

That from a guy who’s been around Chicago sports most of his life, starting as a vendor at Wrigley Field, Comiskey Park, Soldier Field and Chicago Stadium. That continuing weekend and summer income helped convince him to attend close-by NIU. His major went from business to computer science and finally to journalism – which was what he wanted to do all along.

“I had always heard there was no way to make a living in journalism,” he says. “But I talked to my parents and they said I should do what I wanted to do.”

That included getting a reporting job at the Northern Star. “Of anything I did at Northern, the time I spent at the Star was the most important,” he says. “It was the foundation of my journalism skills. There was so much teaching that went on there.”

Then, out of the blue, NIU athletic administrator and former football coach Jerry Ippoliti called Barry and offered him a chance to write, edit and produce Huskie Herald, an NIU sports magazine.

“It was a chance to write sports,” he says. “There were no openings at the Star in sports and it didn’t appear that there would be in the next year. So I took it. How my name was presented to him, to this day I do not know.”

That work led to a part-time sports job after graduation at the Elgin Courier News, which in turn led to a sports job at the expanding Daily Herald in 1985. In late 1989 the Herald offered Barry the Chicago Cubs beat. He held that spot until 1997, when he took on the column that he continues writing today.

Along the way, Barry wrote books with Ryne Sandberg and Steve Stone, and even has quietly written a couple of Baseball Hall of Fame induction speeches.

“I work very hard,” he says, “but I try to take a moment to remember how lucky I am. I’m sitting there at the Super Bowl as Devin Hester is returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown. I’m getting paid to do that.

“It’s all a wonderful gift. And it all started with the Northern Star.”

Barry Stark

Barry Stark
Barry Stark

Barry Stark has the distinction of staying around NIU longer than almost any other Northern Star Hall of Famer. Barry spent four years as an undergraduate, then utilized his photography skills to land a job with the NIU News Bureau. He’d carry a camera in DeKalb for the next 29 years.

He did take a four-year leave to enter the U.S. Air Force, where he worked as a weather observer at Forbes Air Force Base in Kansas and then overseas at Soc Trang Army Air Field in Vietnam. But once back at NIU in 1970, Irv Kummerfeldt hired him at the NIU News Bureau. When that office was disbanded in 1972, Barry transferred to the Art Photo Department (now called Media Services) and remained chief photographer there until retiring in 1999.

While an undergraduate, Barry had joined both The Norther yearbook staff and the Northern Star as photographer and cartoonist.

“I learned the power of the press,” he says. “One of my cartoons, the Russell Road pothole pathos, caused people to send copies of the cartoon to the mayor and the road got repaired … somewhat. Later, it was republished when the problem came up again and the city finally took action and repaved all of Russell Road.”

Barry’s photography was widely distributed throughout the nation in connection with NIU and his exhibits have been seen over the years on campus, at the Norris Gallery in St. Charles, College of DuPage and Gallery 200 in West Chicago. The awards have been many, including from the Illinois Press Association and from Communication Arts Magazine.

Since retiring, Barry has kept busy as a photo instructor at the College of DuPage, and also takes on numerous freelance assignments for Chicago area corporate clients, magazines and nonprofits.

“I still use a modified version of Hallie Hamilton’s syllabus,” he says. “Hallie’s class helped me with my Star assignments, and I still teach my students the same principles today. Had it not been for my Star experience, I may have gone an entirely different direction in my life and not been as satisfied as I feel today.”

Barry’s sideline work as editorial cartoonist for the Press-Republican newspapers and Liberty Newspapers spanned 20 years, from 1983 to 2003. His outside interests include golf, aviation history and even a fountain pen and vintage pencils collection. He and Anne, his wife of 41 years, have a son, Brett, who is married and lives in Colorado.

Marcus LeShock (Outstanding Young Alumni Award)

Marcus LeShock
Marcus LeShock

Marcus Leshock didn’t set out to become an entertainment journalist.

“I don’t know if I ever really decided,” he said. “It just kind of happened. I always loved entertainment. I always knew that I wanted to write about films and music and the arts. I just really love telling those stories.”

That passion brought Marcus both to the Northern Star and to Northern Television Center while attending NIU. He admits today that he approached Allen May, NTC’s general manager of broadcast news, “on a whim.” Several years and two Emmy awards later, Leshock has become one of Chicago’s leading entertainment journalists, and the recipient of this year’s Northern Star Outstanding Young Alumni award.

The Schaumburg native earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in communications at NIU, while working as a writer and editor for the Star’s Weekender section and as a film critic with NTC. He took full advantage of NIU’s proximity to Chicago, attending critics’ screenings with the likes of Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper.

Leshock’s professional career began in 2005, while still working toward his master’s. Chicagoland Television (CLTV), a division of Tribune Co., was impressed with his work at NTC and the Star, and offered him a correspondent position for its Metromix program. He was hired full-time after six months, and within about a year he was asked to take over the show’s hosting duties. Then, in 2009, he became a feature reporter for superstation WGN-TV.

That same year, Marcus was recognized for his contributions to television, winning local Emmy awards for his work on CLTV and for his recaps of “American Idol.” He refers to the experience as “surreal.”

“I really never thought I would be in television,” he says. “Here I am, accepting these awards and looking out on all of the people in Chicago television that I had grown up watching, and here they are looking at me and listening to what I’m saying.”

While he admits that being lauded for his achievements at such a young age did put some pressure on him to reach further, Marcus says he’s content working at WGN and continuing to tell the stories that drew him to journalism in the first place.

“It’s a fun job,” he said. “I want people to turn on the news every day and say, ‘Hey, I would love to do that.'”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email