Battle of the Decades 2023

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Raymond Clamage Memorial Award

in recognition of being the staff member who contributed the most to the progress and quality of The Daily Illini during the year.

Raymond Clamage served on the Daily Illini Staff from 1942-43 and was killed in action in World War II. The award was established by his family to honor his life.

Jack has made numerous contributions to The Daily Illini across multiple sections. Jack began as a staff photographer, and eventually joined the social media team and the copy team as a slotter. In January, he began working with buzz to further develop the content boundaries. Today, he serves as the Audience Director. His involvement in the newsroom in the past year has not gone unnoticed.


John C. Trebilcock Memorial Award

in recognition of the Best Piece of Investigative Reporting by a member of The Daily Illini staff during the year.

Professor Trebilcock was a member of the College of Journalism faculty teaching reporting and editing from 1948 until his death in 1955.

Lillie initially started as a features writer and then rose to the position of Features editor. As her first story as features editor, Lillie asked if the land acknowledgment statement is performative. With her in-depth knowledge of what sources will make a story go the extra mile and the ability to ask the most important questions, Lillie was able to fully showcase her talents.


Jeff Ponczak Memorial Award

in recognition of being the member of The Daily Illini sports staff who has contributed the most to teamwork, the spirit of friendship, and an unabashed love of sports and fun, as well as quality in reporting sports at the paper during the year.

Jeff Ponczak served as a writer and editor on The Daily Illini sports staff from 1987-91. This award was established by Jeff’s friends and family in June 2008 to honor him and support future sports journalists after Jeff lost a long battle with congenital heart problems .

With a continuously growing team in a very competitive field, James was able to create a collaborative and friendly environment. The sports team expanded their coverage to different sports at the University as well as broadened their coverage to include columns and in depth interviews. With James leading by example, the sports team was able to grow their skillset and build long lasting friendships.


Brett H. Lerner Memorial Award

in recognition of being the staff member who contributed the most to the progress and quality of Illini Drive during the year.

Brett Lerner was a DI sports reporter and the co-host of WPGU’s Illini Drive. He was killed in a tragic car accident on his way to cover a sporting event in October, 2015. This award was established by Brett’s father in recognition of Brett’s dedication and contributions to WPGU and The Daily Illini. You can read more about Brett here.

Every day at 5 p.m. a very friendly voice would appear on WPGU 107.1 to tell you all the things you want to hear about sports. Ben Fader led Illini Drive with new perspectives and a fresh look at what Illini Sports were willing to offer. He brought on staff writers and editors to talk about their views and to keep the conversation fresh and make listeners want to keep coming back. 


Tom Thomas, Jr. Memorial Award

in recognition of being the member of the WPGU-FM 107.1 staff who made the greatest contribution to the quality and the betterment of the radio station during the year.

Tom Thomas, Jr. worked at WPGU from 1974-76, and in later years was one of Illini Media’s most active alumni. This award was established by his friends and family, in recognition of his dedication and contributions to WPGU and Illini Media after his sudden death in May of 2008.

Sam has served as the station’s lead engineer for over a year. Due to their talents and hours of hard work, the station is in a much better place than when they arrived. This past winter, they took over as music director, as well as remaining lead engineer, and has been growing the music catalog at an astonishing rate. They are the only member of WPGU to hold two leadership positions, and they handles both roles seamlessly. Their contributions to WPGU this past year have been critical to the success of the station.


Gerald S. Cohen Memorial Award

in recognition of being the member of the business staff who made the greatest contribution to the betterment of The Daily Illini during the year.

Gerald S. Cohen worked on The Daily Illini business staff and this award was established by his parents after his untimely death in 1956 in memory of his contributions and dedication to The Daily Illini business staff.

Winnie Zhu kept all the trains running on time in Illini Media Company’s business division during the 2023-2024 academic year. As the leader of the student sales team, she ensured our data was clean and usable, and that student reps had all of the tools they needed to effectively grow our sales footprint. She also created a custom turnover presentation to help facilitate better knowledge transfer between student leaders.


Thomas J. Costello Memorial Award

in recognition of outstanding service to Illini Media and loyalty to its mission to provide students with a professional learning experience.

Thomas Costello served on the Illini Media Board of Directors from 1995 until his death in 2020. The award was established by Illini Media to honor his outstanding service to the company.

Louise Donahue is the shining example of Illini Media’s alumni engagement efforts, taking her work in planning reunions with her fellow 70s alums and sharing her experience across the entire Illini Media enterprise. Donahue is an indispensable member of the IMC fundraising committee, providing leadership with an easy smile, outstanding project management skills and attention to detail. A 1976 graduate whose DI roles included news editor and executive reporter, Louise worked in copywriter positions around the country, before retiring and focusing on volunteer work – such as Illini Media!