Northern Illinois University

Department of Communication

Journalism Banquet

63rd Annual Journalism Banquet
The Journalism Program of the Department of Communication celebrated fifty years of Journalism at NIU at the 63rd Annual Journalism Banquet, which was held at the Holmes Student Center on April 23, 2010.
In the early, formative years of NIU, Dr. Edith Markin of the English Department and others taught several journalism courses. It wasn’t until 1959 that Journalism became an official department when Donald R. Grubb was recruited from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.  After seeing the need to create a Department of Journalism, Miss Markin, who had heard of Grubb’s accomplishments, sought him out at a conference in Chicago in the winter of 1958.  With input from the NIU English Department, an offer for the position of departmental head to establish a new program in Journalism was made a few months later by Dr. Robert Thistlewaite.  After interviewing at the NIU campus, Grubb accepted the position and taught the first classes in the fall of ‘59. He was given a budget of $200.00 by the university to start building a program.
The Scripps Howard family, who owned metropolitan newspapers, donated money under the Scripps League. The proceeds were based on stock profits from the Chronicle and given for advancement of Journalism teaching and students. Some of the money went to the DeKalb News Service education program. Dr. Grubb built up the program with many sources for scholarships over the years and this year we celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the Journalism program and annual banquet.  The first official Journalism Banquet was held in the spring of 1960, but the first awards banquet was actually held in 1947 under the English department. They did so for 13 years, thus the reason of the discrepancy in the number of annual banquets.

Attended by over 100 Journalism majors and minors, alumni, honored retired faculty, current faculty, and friends of the department, this years’ banquet honored more than forty students with scholarships and department awards. In addition to student awards and scholarships, the 2010 Donald R. Grubb Distinguished Alumni of the Year and 2010 Illinois Journalist of the Year winners were presented awards for excellence in their fields of journalism and gave inspiring speeches to the crowd.

2010 Illinois Journalist of the Year
Jodi S. Cohen, Chicago Tribune Reporter

Jodi S. Cohen joined the Chicago Tribune in 2003, and has covered higher education for the past four years. During the past year, she uncovered a secret admissions system at the University of Illinois that allowed sub-par, politically-connected students into the public university. This resulted in an overall admissions reform at U of I. Prior to working at the Tribune, Cohen was a reporter for The Detroit News.  Her work has been honored by the Education Writers Association, Investigative Reporters & Editors, the Society for Professional Journalists, and Gannett, which awarded her the company’s annual top writing award, Outstanding Achievement in Writing. She also received the Nieman Foundation’s Taylor Award for Fairness in Newspapers. Cohen graduated with honors from the University of Michigan in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in political science, and was Managing News Editor of The Michigan Daily. She lives in Chicago with her husband and twin sons.

Donald R. Grubb Distinguished Alumni Award

Marcus LeShock, WGN-TV, B.A. Communication Studies, ‘03; M.A. Communication Studies, ‘05
As a student at NIU, Marcus worked as an editor for the Northern Star entertainment section and an on-air film critic at the Northern Television Center. As a graduate student, he produced the documentary “Mark Twain and the American Steamboat.”  Marcus joined CLTV in Chicago and was the host of “Metromix on CLTV” from 2005 until May 2009, and was named CLTV Employee of the Year in 2008.  He has served as entertainment, movie, and food critic for all things related to Chicago, including his keen insight of pop-culture. He has appeared on many national and local media outlets, including radio, and has earned many honors throughout his career. In 2009 he won his first two Emmy awards - one for his on-air hosting, the other for his internet-based American Idol Recaps. Marcus became a feature reporter on the WGN-TV News in May of 2009, profiling the city’s best food, offbeat locales, personalities, and overall positive features of the Chicagoland community. Marcus also writes an entertainment blog for the Chicago Tribune’s blog site At, he pens everything from movie reviews and American Idol recaps, to fast food critiques and celebrity interviews. Marcus is also very active when it comes to social media, using Twitter and Facebook to better connect with his audience. He was recently named WGN-TV’s Employee of the Month for April 2010.  Outside of Chicago, Marcus has appeared as a contributor to the national ABC News music program “The Mix,” where he has interviewed pop-culture figures such as Lupe Fiasco and Regina Spektor.  In his ‘free time,’ Marcus serves as a producer and writer for Chicago-based SolidLine Media where he assists in the writing and producing of major corporate, promotional, and charitable video projects with the company.

Ruby Grubb
Ruby Grubb, the widow of Dr. Donald R. Grubb, received a special ‘Perfect Attendance’ award for attending all fifty sequential journalism banquets since the inception of the Journalism program at NIU in 1959.

Jodi S. Cohen
Jodi S. Cohen

Marcus LeShock
Marcus LeShock

2009 Banquet