program book

Mary Margaret Bartley

Working in Chicagoland for the last 40 years, Mary Margaret Bartley got her first big break at the age of two, when she was gifted a tool belt from her father. “Helping” dad build onto their house in Canton, Ohio, she hammered her little heart out. A few years later, she participated in a Junior Theater Workshop and felt the call. These two early passions merged into her becoming an award-winning scenic designer. After graduating with her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, she began working in Philadelphia but soon made her way to Chicago, where she met Michael Loewenstein at Channel 11. Their working relationship eventually merged into a successful partnership that’s lasted 30+ years and is still going strong today. Mary Margaret brings creativity, collaboration and a driving passion for excellence to support the productions for which she designs. As a result, she has worked on almost every television outlet in Chicago. Instead of being pigeonholed into work that is typical of the East and West Coasts, Bartley appreciates the opportunities the Midwest has to offer. The robust creative scene that exists here has allowed her to work on a large variety of shows, with a vast array of clients. From The Bozo Show to Roger Ebert & the Movies, she says that every project begins with the same two tools—a pencil and blank piece of paper. From there, the magic begins. It’s the thrill of making things appear out of nothing that keeps Bartley energized and focused. It’s also allowed her to create over 300, one-of-a-kind sets for clientele that includes WGN, NBC, CBS, PBS and more. Mary Margaret takes a collaborative approach to scenic design and the sets she develops. By understanding the needs of the entire team—directors, lighting and costume designers, engineers and stagehands— she believes the overall production is made that much better. Collaboration and community are two major themes in Mary Margaret’s life and are reflected in the ways she chooses to spend her free time. Outside activities that she’s proud to be part of include: Interfaith Green Network, Deborah’s Place, Grace Lutheran Church Choir, Habitat for Humanity, and Harambe Community Garden. In addition, she serves as Vice Chair of the Central Region of the United Scenic Artists Local 829.

Derrick BlaKley

As a black kid growing up on Chicago's South Side, Derrick Blakley dreamed of a career on the exciting, big city stage of Chicago journalism. His proudest accomplishment is that he was able to do just that. For more than 32 years in local television, Derrick covered the people of Chicago and their stories. Additionally, in network news, he covered Chicago for a national audience. He started in the news business at his hometown newspaper. After graduating from Hales Franciscan High School, and while a student at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, Derrick landed a 1974 summer reporting internship with the Chicago Tribune where he authored a frontpage story his first day. He earned a bachelor's degree from Northwestern and a graduate degree from the University of Illinois before spending two years as a staff reporter at the Tribune. In 1978, he moved into television, as a reporter at WBNS, the CBS affiliate in Columbus, Ohio. His first assignment was at City Hall. Newsroom veterans got a chuckle when he headed out the door for the story… without a camera crew. He had a lot to learn about television. In 1980, Derrick was hired as a correspondent at the CBS News Chicago Bureau. Four years later, he was transferred overseas to bureaus in London and then Bonn, Germany. From there, he covered news in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, including the Ethiopian famine and the funeral of the Duchess of Windsor. Cutbacks at the network led him back to Chicago and WMAQ. For 16 years, he worked the streets as a general assignment reporter, served as fill-in anchor on a variety of newscasts, anchored weekend mornings and finally weekend evenings. The opportunity to anchor a weeknight afternoon news show brought Derrick back to CBS and WBBM in 2003 where he was weekend anchor and political reporter before retiring in 2019. During his career, he won an Ohio Emmy® award and five Chicago/Midwest Emmy® awards for outstanding achievement. Derrick offers heartfelt thanks to the countless producers, directors, writers, videographers and editors who he worked with and learned from over the years.

Don Cornelius

The Soul Train weekly dance show series originally began locally in 1970 in Chicago. The next year, it premiered in first-run syndication and began to inspire generations of music aficionados, with its hip dancing and exciting performances by top R&B, Hip Hop, Gospel and Jazz recording artists. In his own unique style, Soul Train creator, executive producer and host Don Cornelius remained at the cutting edge of soul music for more than three decades. His achievements and influence have been recognized by Hollywood and the broadcasting community alike, with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a 1995 induction into the Broadcasting & Cable Magazine Hall of Fame, a 2005 Grammy Trustees Award and a 2005 TV Land Pop Culture Award. In addition to the Soul Train weekly series, Don Cornelius Productions created three annual TV specials – The Soul Train Music Awards (21 seasons), The Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards (10 seasons) and The Soul Train Christmas Starfest (8 seasons). Ironically, the Soul Train legacy almost didn't happen. In 1966, Don took a gamble by enrolling in a Chicago broadcasting school. He was told that the majority of those enrolled might never get jobs in broadcasting. Despite the odds, Don decided to give the course a try because being a radio announcer had always been a dream of his. He attended classes in the morning while maintaining a regular job during the day and completed the course. In 1967, he was offered a part-time position as a news announcer on Chicago radio station WVON. Later, Don would set his sights on TV production, which led to his idea for a Blackoriented dance show. He pitched the idea to WCIU Chicago and agreed to produce the pilot at his own expense while the station provided a small studio. WCIU aired the original version of Soul Train as a 5-day-per week, live, afternoon strip on August 17, 1970. Soul Train became an instantaneous hit locally attracting the attention of the Johnson Products Company (Ultra Sheen/Afro Sheen hair care products) and its founder and president who proposed an advertising partnership taking Soul Train into nationwide syndication. The syndicated version began in 1971 and evolved as a weekly series with 36 consecutive seasons, becoming the longest-running first-run nationally syndicated program in American TV history.

Dick Johnson

Dick Johnson was born in Massachusetts and grew up in Connecticut, taking a gap year in Norway before attending DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. During his senior year, he served as News Director of the campus radio station which led to an internship at the NBC television affiliate in Indianapolis – WTHR. Upon graduation in 1976 with a degree in political science, the station offered him his first reporting job. The following year, Dick moved to Dallas where he spent five years as anchor/reporter for the then- CBS affiliate KDFW. In 1982, he returned to the Midwest as anchor/reporter at ABC O&O WLS, where he continued honing his skills for two decades covering breaking stories in one of the most competitive news markets in the country. His career was perfect for living out his passion for both politics and compelling story-telling. Dick joined NBC O&O WMAQ in 2002 as news anchor and reporter until his passing in 2020. Some of his career highlights include coverage of the return from Iran of the American hostages to West Point, the 1980’s famine in Ethiopia, and zeroing in on the Chicago ties to Gianni Versace’s killer Andrew Cunanan. During his decades in broadcast journalism, his work was recognized with regional Emmy® Awards from the Chicago/Midwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, an Alfred I. duPont- Columbia University Award and the George Foster Peabody Award. His love of theatre and music, which began in high school, continued through college and beyond, leading to his involvement with several local community productions as an actor, producer and writer. And his life-long love of jazz helped him enjoy countless jazz festivals at Elmhurst College and performances at several Chicago-area jazz clubs. Above all, Dick’s family was the center of his life as husband to his college sweetheart Lauren, father to their three incredible children: Griffin, Parker and Maclayne, and doting grandfather to Fiona and Leland. He loved being a husband, father, grandfather, Indian Guide chief, Little League coach, partner on daddy-daughter ski trips, and sharing the joys and challenges of parenting.

MOrris jones

Morris V. Jones Jr. traveled the world during his nearly 40 years as a photojournalist with CBS 2, covering important stories from President Nelson Mandela’s inauguration in South Africa to the Olympics in Norway, Los Angeles and Atlanta. He joined WBBM in 1976 as a cameraman after stints as an engineer at WMAQ and WGN. Retired CBS 2 reporter John Drummond described Morris as an excellent shooter, known for technical skills that could save the day. Born in Chicago, Morris graduated from Harlem High School and attended the University of Illinois Chicago. His father was a pharmacist who owned a Southside drugstore and Morris had initially planned to pursue a career as a dentist; however, he got bit by the TV bug while working as a tour guide at Channel 5 before moving into engineering. Morris enjoyed every aspect of covering a story — speaking with witnesses to news events, shooting and editing footage and handling every technical detail. Former Channel 2 reporter Bob Wallace said Morris loved all things technical and was “the quintessential nerd before we knew what a nerd was.” Wallace said: “We would be out on a story and little kids will come up to the truck and Morris would show them how the camera worked.” According to former CBS 2 anchor/reporter John Davis, “Morris brought significant empathy to his work and would not shoot just anything, like in the case of a mother grieving the loss of a child. He was so considerate he would bend over backward to make sure we were not taking advantage of a very vulnerable situation.” His empathy reached beyond sensitivity to family tragedies. When Morris covered a West Side church whose sound system was burglarized, he was so moved by the story that he went out and bought them a whole new sound system. Morris also taught editing and production at Columbia College Chicago and whenever he had the opportunity to participate in a career day event at Chicago area schools, he gladly volunteered, encouraging students to get involved in the television industry. Morris passed away from cancer in 2016.

phil ponce

Phil Ponce is Chicago Tonight’s Alexandra C. and John D. Nichols Contributing Anchor. He joined WTTW in 1992 as a correspondent and substitute host for John Callaway. In 1997, Ponce joined the News Hour with Jim Lehrer in Washington, D.C., as an anchor then returned to Chicago Tonight as host in 1999. Phil was born in McAllen, Texas, and his family moved to East Chicago, Indiana, when he was four. There, he learned English after his kindergarten teacher told his parents to let Phil play outside with other children so he could learn the language from them. That appears to have worked. He earned an English degree from Indiana University, a law degree from the University of Michigan, and practiced law for six years. After belatedly realizing he was temperamentally unsuited for advocacy, confrontation, and taking on other peoples’ problems—and after a failed attempt to become a professional actor—he had an “aha” moment when he read a New York Times Sunday Magazine article about big-city anchors and reporters. Once his life’s work was finally revealed to him, he convinced a skeptical–but game– news director to hire him as a weekend reporter. He began his broadcast career in Indianapolis, Indiana, and spent nine years reporting for WBBM-TV. Some highlights of Phil’s career: blowing off then-state senator Barack Obama’s invitation to lunch after playing phone tag with him (who doesn’t blow off state senators’ invitations?), asking Rod Blagojevich about his “testicular virility,” and being hectored on-air by Sesame Street character “Elmo.” By his reckoning Phil has done roughly 7500 live interviews over the course of his tenure as host of Chicago Tonight. He is sure many of them were good. The most recent and probably the last significant destination in Phil’s once-erratic professional journey is the Knickerbocker Hotel where you are now reading this. Phil wrote a monthly column for the Chicago Tribune and currently lectures at Loyola University Chicago. Phil and his artist wife, Ann, have three children: photographer Maria, and broadcast journalists Dan and Anthony. The Ponces have five grandchildren; the youngest is named Jeronimo.

Martha Teichner

Martha Teichner is a correspondent for CBS Sunday Morning, where since 1993 she has been reporting on a wide range of subjects from politics, the arts, culture, science and social issues impacting our world. Since joining CBS News in 1977, Martha has earned multiple national awards for her original reporting, including 13 Emmy® Awards, five James Beard Foundation Awards and a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award. She was also part of the team coverage of the Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school shooting which earned CBS News a 2014 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award. In 2018, Martha was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Newswomen’s Club of New York. And, in 2020, she was inducted into the Women’s Hall of Fame by Michigan Women Forward. Martha’s groundbreaking career has spanned the gamut of human experience. She has been a witness to and reported on some of the largest national and international stories of this era. She has covered wars; the 9/11 terrorist attacks; the death of Princess Diana; the life of Nelson Mandela; the COVID-19 pandemic; the protests following the murder of George Floyd; and profiles of such notables as author Margaret Atwood, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and actor Nathan Lane. Earlier in her career, Martha spent more than a dozen years as a foreign correspondent covering major international news. She began her journalism career at WJEF Radio and WZZM-TV in Grand Rapids, Michigan, before becoming a general assignment reporter for WTVJ-TV Miami and WMAQ-TV Chicago. Born in Traverse City, Michigan, Martha is a graduate of Wellesley College. Her New York Times bestselling memoir, When Harry Met Minnie, a memoir about two dogs and the power of friendship, was released in 2021.

Roz Varon

Traffic/Transportation Anchor Roz Varon was the first in the country to bring rush hour traffic reporting to TV morning news when she joined ABC 7 News in April 1989. She not only updates Chicagoland commuters on snarls and travel times, but she also provides extensive coverage of the transportation beat. Roz has won multiple Chicago/Midwest Emmy® Awards in traffic reporting, specialty programming, spot news and features. She has been honored with several Peter Lisagor Awards, including one for her Weekender series, a weekly roundup of metro Chicago events. The Girl Scouts recognized her as a role model with their "Girls Scouts of the USA Thanks Badge." Additionally, Roz won the Illinois Broadcasters Association's Silver Dome Award for her breast cancer special, Faces of Inspiration. She has published On the Road with Roz: Adventures in Travel and Life, a delightful and heartening collection of words and images detailing her travels on Route 66 and around the world with her family. As a breast cancer survivor, Roz works diligently to help heighten cancer prevention and awareness and is an in-demand motivational speaker. An animal lover, she volunteers much of her time to the Anti-Cruelty Society and PAWS Chicago. She also is on the board of Equal Hope. Its mission is to save women’s lives by eliminating health disparities in Illinois. Since 2000, Roz has served on the Board of Governors of the Chicago/Midwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and is currently a member of the Columbia Alumni Association & Network National Alumni Board (CAAN at Columbia College Chicago). She earned her B.A. in Broadcast Communications from Columbia College Chicago, and resides in the western suburbs with her husband, two dogs and a cat.