Northern Illinois University

NIU Office of Public Affairs

Mike Burke
Mike Burke

Gerald DiPego
Gerald DiPego

Diane Mermigas
Diane Mermigas

Jim Price
Jim Price

Greg Rivara
Greg Rivara

Gary Stein
Gary Stein

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News Release

Contact: Mark McGowan, NIU Office of Public Affairs
(815) 753-9472

February 27, 2006

NIU student newspaper inducts six
into Northern Star Hall of Fame

DeKalb — Membership in the Northern Star Hall of Fame grew to 53 last week with the induction of six new alums, including two with connections to Hollywood.

Gerald DiPego, a reporter and columnist for the Northern Illinois University campus newspaper who graduated in 1963, is a screenwriter who includes “Phenomenon” and “The Forgotten” on his resumé. Diane Mermigas, the Northern Star's arts editor in 1972, is a contributing editor and columnist for The Hollywood Reporter and editor of her own “Mermigas on Media” subscription newsletter.

DiPego and Mermigas are among a class that includes the first graduate of NIU's journalism program, a former nationally syndicated sports columnist, a writer of plays, poems and short stories and the managing editor of a daily newspaper in a fiercely competitive suburban market.

Christy Arnold, a 1999 alum and reporter for the Pulitzer-finalist Charlotte Sun of Port Charlotte, Fla., received the Outstanding Young Alumni Award. Mark McGowan, of the NIU Office of Public Affairs, and a 1992 alum, received the annual BridgeBuilder Award.

The induction ceremony was held Saturday, Feb. 25, in Altgeld Hall, NIU's flagship building.

“We have a two-fold purpose with this,” Northern Star adviser Jim Killam said. “One is for the alumni to re-establish old friendships and to come back and see the campus again. The other is for our current students to see first-hand how much the Northern Star means to the people who have been here, even decades after their graduation.”

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.

During the event, several honorees spoke about the Star students' publishing the controversial Danish cartoons.

“Even in that room full of journalists there were differences of opinion on the issue,” Killam said, “but what all of the speakers kept coming back to was the thoughtful, professional way the students handled it, and the courage it took to make the decision they did. Coming from journalists of that high caliber, those words meant a lot to our students.”

More information is available online at

This year's inductees are:

  • Mike Burke, a 1982 alum who serves as the public affairs director for the Bounce Learning Network, which develops early childhood education programs for low-income families. Burke also chairs the board of the Community Media Workshop, an organization devoted to teaching grassroots groups how to get their stories told by the mainstream media. He also has seen his fiction published in numerous magazines and his plays produced on Chicago stages.
  • Gerald DiPego, class of 1963, who moved to California in 1970 to try his hand at screenwriting. The former reporter, public relations specialist and journalism and English teacher has written several novels in addition to his numerous screenplays for television and movies, including “Angel Eyes,” “Instinct” and “Message in a Bottle.” DiPego's novels include “Cheevey.”
  • Diane Mermigas, who graduated in 1974 and later earned a master's degree in English from DePaul University. Mermigas covered the media for the Arlington Heights-based Daily Herald by attending press tours and interviewing stars, but expanded the beat by interviewing executives and covering the business end of entertainment. She later wrote for Crain Communications before her current job as a columnist and editor-at-large for The Hollywood Reporter. Her “Mermigas on Media” newsletter finds its way to the desks of industry leaders.
  • Jim Price, class of 1961, NIU's first journalism graduate. Price worked for newspapers in Illinois, Iowa and Texas before settling in the Lone Star State at the San Antonio Light and, later, the San Antonio Express-News. He covered the courts and served as an investigative reporter before becoming an editor on the city and state and regional desks. Now retired, Price writes and edits releases for goodwill organizations, including his church.
  • Greg Rivara, a 1991 alum and managing editor of the Kane County Chronicle. Rivara previously covered crime and courts at the Chronicle as well as the Ottawa Daily Times and the Crystal Lake-based Northwest Herald, where he also served as a bureau chief and news editor. He holds a master's degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois at Springfield and is president of the Northern Star Alumni Board of Directors as well as vice president of the Northern Illinois Newspaper Association.
  • Gary Stein, class of 1969, West Broward editor for the Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Sun-Sentinel. On a Northern Star staff with numerous future big names in journalism, Stein's peers agreed his words sparkled the most. He covered sports in Rockford for 11 years and later became a national sports columnist for Gannett before switching to the city desk in the Sunshine State. Stein wrote 3,000 news columns over 15 years, signing off in 1996 to take his current position.

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