For more than fifteen years, WTTW Executive Producer Leonard Aronson has been the person behind some of the most thought-provoking documentaries broadcast on Channel 11. Although much of his work tackles worldwide problems such as racism and violence, he always finds a way to show how those issues affect the people of Chicago. Len began his career as a newspaper reporter, learning his craft first with the City News Bureau and later with the Chicago’s American and Chicago Today newspapers. He made the move to television in 1977 working as a news and documentary producer for NBC’s owned-and operated station, WMAQ Channel 5. Ten years later, he joined Channel 11. Since its inception in 1989, Aronson has produced WTTW’s Chicago Matters series. This award-winning program has covered issues such as the environment, children at risk, aging, race relations, violence, immigration, health care, justice, and education. Len has produced twenty documentaries for Channel 11 including the Emmy®-Award winning Vietnam: The Next Generation and Vietnam: A Chicagoan Goes Home. Len has won an impressive eleven Emmy® Awards, two Cardinal’s Communicator awards and two Peter Lisagor awards. While at Channel 5, he wrote parts of the Peabody award winning All the King’s Horses and produced the Emmy® Award winning programs, Night on the Town, which looked at the role alcohol plays in our sense of entertainment, and They All Call it Home, an exploration of what makes a safe street. He also developed and produced City in a Garden, a program examining the greening revolution taking place in Chicago. Len has traveled extensively both in the United States and overseas, producing documentaries in Vietnam, Thailand, Egypt, Turkey and France. He has worked as a merchant marine and traveled to Africa, Asia, Europe and the Far East, living for extended periods of time in Spain, Germany and Israel. Len has been married for 38 years to Anne Keegan, a former reporter, writer and columnist at the Chicago Tribune. They have one son, Patrick, 37, currently living and working in Manila as President of Motorola, Philippines.
Muriel Clair is a first-rate journalist whose reports represent a clear and balanced set of facts with a perspective that illustrates respect and concern for the human side of a story. Muriel joined the WGN-TV news team in 1978. While covering a diverse range of stories and issues, Muriel developed a solid track record as WGN’s principal trial reporter. Clair taught English in Detroit and Kansas City public schools before she began working for NBC’s Kansas City affiliate, WDAF-TV, in the early 70’s. Her excellent reporting at that station earned her a position at NBC’s WMAQ-TV in Chicago where her background as both a journalist and educator made her a perfect fit for the education beat. Despite a full and unpredictable schedule, Muriel finds time for community service and she has received numerous awards for her participation. She won the Broadcasters Award for African American TV and Filmmakers in 2003. In 2002, the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University’s School of Law recognized Muriel for her “journalistic integrity and work to improve the criminal justice system.” She was named the Zeta Phi Beta Sorority’s Woman of the Year in 2000 for outstanding service in the field of communications. Muriel has served as a board member of Marcy Newberry Association, a social service agency, and has actively worked with Child Serv, a community-based organization that helps children reclaim and control their lives. She has served on the board of the Free Street Theater, has been a mentor at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, and is a member of the Chicago Association of Black Journalists. Muriel’s highly successful For Kids’ Sake series earned her several recognitions in the 1990’s, including a Silver Dome Award from the Illinois Broadcasters Association, the Cardinal’s Communicator Award, and she was named the Chicago Park District’s 1994 Chicagoan of the Year for promoting Chicago’s youth. She received another Cardinal’s Communicator Award in 1991 for her series, Families in Touch – Growing Up Drug Free, and in 1993 she received an Associated Press first place award for her work on the series, My Brother’s Keeper. Muriel says she is honored and extremely pleased to join the elite group of television professionals in the Academy’s Silver Circle.
Jack Hakman joined WMAQ-TV in 1966 as Art Director. The Art Department at that time designed sets, costumes and graphics for the entire station operation. Before joining Channel 5, he was Art Director at WBBM-TV. Jack designed many of the sets for shows produced by WMAQ-TV, both local and network, running the gamut from news sets to musical variety shows, awards shows and made-for-TV films. He won three Emmy® Awards for his work at the station. Jack’s design credits are too numerous to list, but they include working on these memorable shows: NBC News, network and local; the Today Show; Meet the Press; City Desk; various Bob Hope specials; Steve Dahl’s Not For Midgets Only; three holiday specials for Kukla, Fran and Ollie --- Tis the Season to be Ollie, Happy Birthday Buelah Witch, and Crisis at the Egg Plant; Kidding Around, an award-winning series for children; the annual Emmy® Awards programs; Moment of Rage and Crime of Innocence, two 90-minute dramas in WMAQ-TV’s Chicago Playwright’s Series; Morning Call hosted by Tony Randall; $100,000 Fortune Hunt which aired on WGN-TV; Chicago Bears Weekly and Pro Football Weekly; NBC Salutes Chic Chicago; and Royko at Best. In addition to creating sets and costumes for television, Jack has designed for the theatre. His work includes sets for two productions at the New York City Opera, Puccini’s Tosca and Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro. He has worked on various projects for the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Ivanhoe Theatre and the Happy Medium, as well as doing design work at the Sierra Madre Playhouse in Sierra Madre, California. Jack designed and supervised the renovation and restoration of the Midland Hotel in Chicago. He created the logo for the Harris Theatre of Music and Dance in Millennium Park and he is credited with designing various Chicago area restaurants including the Paradise Island Disco and Molly’s Parlor at the Palmer House. Currently Jack also designed residential interiors. Jack passed away in 2019.
WGN-TV News anchorman Robert Jordan was born Robert Howard Jordan, Jr. on August 31, 1943 in Atlanta, Georgia to Millicent Dobbs Jordan, a college professor, and Robert H. Jordan, Sr., a dentist. Jordan began his career in broadcast journalism by serving as a booth announcer for WSM-TV in Nashville, Tennessee. That same year, he was married to Sharon E. Lundy. Then, in 1973 he was hired as a general assignment reporter for WGN-TV in Chicago, Illinois. Jordan worked for the WGN-TV One o’clock news while pursuing his B.A. degree at Roosevelt University in Chicago.
After graduating from Roosevelt University in 1977, Jordan joined the CBS News Midwest bureau in Chicago. He worked there for two years, covering stories throughout the Midwest, for the Evening News with Walter Cronkite. In 1980, Jordan returned to WGN-TV’s news team where he wrote and produced several stories including a documentary on the Atlanta Child Murders. He also went on to write a series on the nationalization of the U.S. dollar entitled “Peso Rich; Dollar Poor”. During the 1980s, Jordan served as a board member and trustee for the Chicago Sinfonietta, John Shedd Aquarium (where he currently continues to be an active trustee) and Evanston Hospital.
In 1994, Jordan decided to further his education by earning his M.A. degree in speech from Northeastern Illinois University. He would later earn his Ph.D. in philosophy of education with a minor in ethics in 2000, from Loyola University Chicago.
Aside from working as an anchorman, Jordan has written two screenplays, Anthony’s Key and Multiman. In 1995, he joined the board of the Safer Foundation and the following year, Jordan became a board member at the Night Ministry. He founded his own production company, Jordan & Jordan Communications, Inc. in 1997.
Jordan lives with his wife, Sharon, in Lincolnwood, Illinois. They have one daughter, Karen, also a reporter/anchor in Chicago. Her husband, Christian Farr, is a reporter/anchor with the PBS station in Chicago.
After graduating from the University of Wisconsin/Madison, Mary began her career in Chicago at WFLD-TV. From there, she went to cable television and then she joined WBBM Newsradio 78 as a writer, producer and anchor of Week in Review. Mary went to WBBM-TV as a writer and then became a news reporter. Her talents were duly noted and she was offered positions in New York, Washington and Paris. Wanting to raise her children, Tom and Chris, in Chicago, Mary instead decided to accept the post of Editorial Director at WMAQ-TV before becoming news anchor and commentator for the station. While she was at WMAQ, Mayor Richard M. Daley asked Mary to become Chicago’s Tourism Director. During Mary’s tenure, Chicago went from 40th place to one of the top ten world destinations to visit. Upon reaching her goals in this endeavor, Mary went to CNN as Midwest correspondent and to WMAQ Radio as a talk show host. At this time, Mary also launched Mary Laney, Inc., a production company that specializes in video and audio production, scripts, concepts, and crisis management and training. Mary is a columnist on the editorial page of the Chicago Sun-Times, has written a novel, has sold the option on two movie scripts, and is currently collaborating on a script in Hollywood. She has received more than 100 national, regional and local awards including Emmy® Awards, UPI and AP awards. She also has been honored by American Women in Radio and Television, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the Salvation Army, Chicago Firefighters and the Newspaper Veterans Association. She has been cited for excellence by the U.S. Senate, U.S. House, Illinois General Assembly, Chicago City Council and Chicago Public Schools. And she’s the first woman honored by the Newspaper Veterans with the “Classy Guy Award”. Mary does charity work for Haymarket House, Maryville City of Hope and Prentice Hospital. She is also on the Northwestern Women’s Board, the International Visitors Board and the Board of Governors of the Chicago/Midwest Chapter of NATAS. She has many special interests including government, politics and golf. She has been asked to play in Michael Jordan’s Celebrity Golf Tournaments annually, along with other charitable tourneys.
Phil Ruskin worked in Chicago television as a Staff Director for about 42 years which Phil himself describes as “something of a feat!” He started at WBKB Channel 4 on January 2, 1949, and retired from WBBM-TV Channel 2 in 1991. Phil, considered the Dean of Chicago Directors, is perhaps best known for his technically- sharp orchestration of WBBM’s 5 O’clock News and 10 O’clock News. Phil’s directing credits go far beyond the news studio. Among the shows he has directed: Joan of Arc, one of Mariette Hartley’s first appearances in a live TV drama; WBBM’s kids program, Good Gang Express; the Joseph Jefferson Awards; several Emmy® Awards programs; and various New Year’s Eve celebrations. Phil left WBBM a couple of times to experience directing elsewhere. He went to London to work as Manager of Television for an advertising agency just as commercial television was ramping up in Great Britain. He also worked at WLS-TV for three years as a staff director. He won two Emmy® Awards during his career for Excellence in Directing, while being involved with countless other programs that garnered Emmy® Awards, in part, because of his flawless direction. Phil always kept busy even beyond his career at WBBM-TV. He was an Instructor at Columbia College Chicago for about 20 years. Phil served as an officer or board member for the Radio and Television Directors Guild, the Directors Guild of America and the Chicago Press Club. He spent two and a half years in the U.S. Army during the Second World War, and was with the U.S. Infantry in Europe during the Battle of the Bulge. Phil married his best friend, Esther Slovick, in Chicago on Dec. 21, 1946. Phil and Esther had three lovely children, Elizabeth, Peter and Jane, and four terrific grandkids. Esther died last year just a few weeks before she and Phil would have celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. Phil says he wants to honor Esther with his induction into the Silver Circle. In Phil’s words: “She mentored me and nurtured me and stood by me for 60 years. She will always be with me and I will always love her. I am such a fortunate man.”
Hedy Zussman is a behind-the-scenes television professional who has been breaking down barriers her entire life. She has worked at WMAQ-TV/NBC5 in Chicago since 1972. Hedy currently serves as Archivist/Librarian Supervisor in NBC’s digital media world. Her path to WMAQ-TV began in the Chicago area where she studied at Proviso East Township High School in Maywood. She soon went on the road, first to the University of Miami where she studied drama and then she transferred to Miami University and received a Bachelor’s Degree in Education. Hedy’s journey to television then took a long detour to the other side of the ocean. Hedy studied conversational Hebrew in Jerusalem in 1968 and then joined the Israel Broadcasting Authority Television Studios and took a lead technical and editorial role in what appeared on Israeli television. She served as a technical director, an assistant producer, and director of transmission, as well as directing news department interviews and acting in film documentaries for television. She also returned to Israel after she started working for WMAQ and took on a volunteer position as technical director for the Israel Broadcasting Authority Television Studios during the Yom Kippur War in 1973. Once Hedy returned to the United States and re-joined WMAQ, she began piling up a long list of “firsts” at the NBC-owned station. She was the first female studio audio engineer, first studio female lighting director, first female mini-cam tape engineer, first female in the Bears, Sox and Blackhawks locker rooms and first female sports editor for WMAQ both in house and in the field. Hedy worked on a wide variety of programs including The 10-pm News with Floyd Kalber, Tilmon Tempo, the Kup Show, Sorting It Out, Bubble Gum Digest, the Today Show with Barbara Walters and Frank McGee and Midnight Special with Wolf Man Jack. In 1989, as weekend editing supervisor, Hedy oversaw WMAQ’s final broadcast from the Merchandise Mart and debuted the first broadcast from the NBC Tower. Hedy won an Emmy® Award for “Technical Excellence in the Field Tech Crew” for the Chicago 2002 Marathon coverage and she edited the Emmy® Award-winning sports special, 39 year itch. It’s always a tribute to be honored by those who rely on your contributions every day, and Hedy is the proud recipient of three Ovation Awards from NBC for “Work Above and Beyond the Ordinary.