Illini Media alumni share greatest professional accomplishments


Sydney Laput

Pat Wingert, 2022 Illini Media Hall of Fame inductee and former The Daily Illini editor-in-chief, speaks during the hall of fame award ceremony on Saturday. Wingert believes that her biggest accomplishment is the ability to find ways to tell the stories of all different kinds of people.

By Sydney Wood, buzz Editor

As Illini Media students, faculty and alumni returned to campus to honor the 2022 Hall of Fame inductees, and some alumni shared their proudest moments in their professional careers. 

Pat Wingert 

Class of 1977

Daily Illini editor-in-chief; Hall of Fame inductee

Former National Correspondent at Newsweek Magazine

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“My biggest accomplishment was finding ways to tell the story of extraordinary, ordinary people. In my career, I ended up interviewing a lot of famous people, politicians and other people who are famous for a variety of reasons. But finding people who did extraordinary things whose stories otherwise would not have been known gave me the most satisfaction and helped humanize a lot of big events like wars, explosions and serial killings.”

Ralph Nozaki

Class of 1980 

WPGU program director; Hall of Fame inductee

Program Director for MeTV FM

“My biggest career accomplishment I would consider to be the almost 20 years that I spent doing the midday show on WNUA in smooth jazz. We were a ratings leader at that time, and we were a very successful large billing radio station. It was a station that was looked upon by other smooth jazz stations in the country as one of the leaders in the format and to have been part of that really successful operation for almost 20 years was just an incredible experience. I was just one little cog in a major, well-oiled machine, but it was a blast the whole way through.”

Jon Ginoli

Class of 1983 

WPGU staffer

Guitarist of Pansy Division

“When I moved to California, I formed a band called Pansy Division, which was to our mind the first all-gay rock band, and we were on this little label called Lookout Records. Lookout Records happened to be the label that Green Day started out on, and then they signed to a major label and were getting very big, very fast. The year that they broke through in 1994, they asked my band — which was a band that annoyed a lot of people because of how gay we were — to open for them. I think my proudest moment was being able to play arenas. I thought my band would be a small band that would play little clubs and have a gay following. And we ended up with all these straight teenagers and queer teenagers listening to us in the mid to late ’90s. And we thought, ‘Well, we’re playing our songs for a crowd that’s old enough to get it.’ Suddenly, we had to write songs that questioning teens could relate to, so having that experience of touring with them in ’94 was a real professional achievement.”

Monica Eng 

Class of 1991 

Daily Illini writer, “The Directory” 

Reporter at Axios Chicago 

“There was a woman, her name was Iris Chang. She actually worked at The DI at the same time I did. I didn’t know her. And I ended up getting to know her when she went on a book tour and visited me in Chicago for a book called ‘The Chinese in America.’ She also wrote ‘The Rape of Nanking.’ We became friends through Paula Kamen, who also worked at The DI. One day, a friend called me and said, ‘Chinese news services are reporting that Iris Chang killed herself.’ And I was shocked because I had just seen her, and I actually owed her a thank you note because she had sent me these beautiful pictures, and the last time I interviewed her was when she was in Chicago. That started a journey of me trying to figure out what happened, how she died by suicide. I spent months and months and months and months going to her home, going to the place where it actually happened, interviewing a million people, and finally finding out what happened, and the story was super difficult. Her family did not want to participate at a certain point, and I wanted to give up many times, but still today, I wrote the story maybe 20 years ago, and I still get letters today from people who said that it affected them and helped them go get help for the distress they were feeling at the time, and that makes it rewarding. Sometimes when I’m doing these really difficult feature stories that take months and require really difficult painful, intimate conversations, I say, ‘Never again, never again. I’m only going to do happy, easy stories.’ But these end up being the ones that change people’s lives and have people writing to me 20 years later saying thank you for doing that.”

Jon Hansen

Class of 2006 

WPGU staffer; Hall of Fame Inductee

WGN Radio Host; WCIU Host; Podcast Director at Block Club Chicago 

“The first time that I got to be a host on WGN radio as a talk show host of the news talk station in Chicago was really special because I grew up listening to that station. I would — as a kid — stay up late at night and have the radio under my covers so that my parents didn’t hear that I was listening to the radio. I would listen to WGN radio, and my dad and I would listen to WGN radio in the car all the time, so being a host on WGN radio kind of gave me goosebumps to be able to do that. And similarly, getting to announce the Chicago Blackhawks game for the first time with my dad in attendance (was really special). He used to take me to games, and I used to pretend to be the voice of the stadium. So kind of living out those dreams as a kid that you never thought you would get to do, those are the special moments that stand out.” 


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