Aspiring, late sports journalist's impact felt across C-U

By Daily Illini Staff Report

Brett Lerner, 20, of Buffalo Grove, died in a car crash around 7:30 p.m. Friday, as he was traveling on Route 47 to an assignment for WCIA, where he was a sports intern.

Lerner died of injuries sustained in the crash; the death is being investigated by the Champaign County Coroner’s Office and the Illinois State Police.

Before coming to the University, Lerner attended Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, Illinois, where he was an integral part in the broadcast program.

Lerner, who was a broadcast journalism major, worked with the Big Ten Network, ESPN C-U, Illini Productions and The Daily Illini, which all felt a loss this weekend with his death.

After joining The Daily Illini in February 2014, Lerner became a staff member for the sports department in both print and on-air capacities. He wasn’t writing this fall, but he covered men’s tennis, hockey and women’s basketball for The Daily Illini in his two years on staff.

Lerner was in his junior year at the University, but his involvement on campus was far beyond the typical student involvement. He did play by play for the Big Ten Network and interned for the Tay & J show for ESPN C-U. Lerner also graced the airwaves every Monday evening as a host for WGPU and The Daily Illini’s “Illini Drive.”

In addition to his plethora of experiences, Lerner was a member of Zeta Beta Tau, a University fraternity.

The University honored Lerner Saturday with a moment of silence before the start of the Homecoming football game. Lerner’s impact on the C-U community reached far beyond his fellow students and colleagues.

WCIA’s Facebook page posted that Lerner was a “very bright young man,” Saturday morning.

“(Brett) had an amazing future ahead of him in the sports broadcasting business. He will be missed.”

Sunday, Illini Hillel released a statement about Lerner’s death and his impact within the Jewish community on campus. Asaf Weiss, Hillel’s Israel fellow, went on Birthright with Lerner in January.

“I went to see the U of I Baseball team playing at the University baseball stadium. During one of the breaks I went up to the press booth to see who is there, and suddenly I see Brett all suited up as he was one of the commentators for the live radio show of the game. He saw me, and at the same time, as he was talking into the microphone commentating about the game, he got up and shook my hand warmly,” he said within the statement. “That is how I will remember Brett — as a humble person and a real mensch that loved sports and broadcasting.”

Lerner is survived by his parents, Richard and Susan, and his sister, Mallory. According to his obituary, the family is encouraging donations be made to Orphans of the Storm, a Deerfield-based animal shelter. A synagogue service is scheduled for Monday at 1 p.m. at Temple Chai, 1670 Checker Road, Long Grove, Illinois.ch all of them

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