CLC Alum Deborah Nelson wins statewide distinguished alumnus award
Deborah Nelson, formerly of Grayslake, became the first College of Lake County alumnus to earn the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Illinois Community College Trustees Association (ICCTA). She received the prestigious award at the ICCTA convention, held June 1-2, 2012 in Normal.
Nelson is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter who earned an A.A. degree from CLC in 1973. She then earned B.S. in journalism from Northern Illinois University in 1975 and a J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1988. She is now a senior lecturer and director of the Carnegie Seminar at the University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism.
Remembering the early influence that CLC had on her, Nelson wrote that, “The faculty didn’t treat the classroom like a rest stop between research projects. Their first calling was teaching, and they knew how to connect with students. There were no ‘wash-out’ classes to get rid of struggling students. Everything seemed to be geared toward helping us succeed. I encountered some of the most talented teachers in my college experience at CLC,” Nelson said. “In 2006, after 30 years in the news business, I accepted a faculty position at University of Maryland Philip Merrill College of Journalism. As I began mulling over what sort of teacher I wanted to be, my experience at CLC was the first thing that came to mind.”
Writing about some of the obstacles she faced competing in the male-dominated field of investigative reporting, Nelson recalled that early on, her editors thought she would be better suited to feature writing.
“One well-intentioned editor encouraged me to take a position as a fashion writer. (That would have been a disaster; I couldn’t tell poplin from satin.) When I declined, he warned that I wouldn’t be promoted in the news department,” Nelson said. “But I let my work speak for itself, was eventually promoted, enjoyed a long, successful career in news and investigative reporting, and became the 15th woman to win the Pulitzer Prize in Investigative Reporting in the category’s 47-year history.”
Richard Anderson, chairman of the CLC Board of Trustees, was at the award ceremony and said he was thrilled with Nelson’s selection. Anderson went to high school with Nelson and assisted in presenting the award to her at the ICCTA ceremony. “It’s incredible what Deborah has accomplished,” he said. “She is a model for all community college students about what you can accomplish with a good education.”
At the same ceremony, CLC Trustee Barbara D. Oilschlager received her third Trustee Education Award from ICCTA.
About Deborah Nelson
Deborah Nelson won the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting for a Seattle Times series with Alex Tizon and Eric Nalder that exposed widespread problems in the federal government’s Indian Housing Program. She subsequently was editor on Pulitzer-winning series for The Washington Post on the deaths of 229 children in the District of Columbia’s care, and for The Los Angeles Times on the deadly accident record of the Marines Harrier jump jet. The stories led to national and local reforms.
Nelson won The American Association for the Advancement of Science Award for stories with Rick Weiss at the Washington Post on a gene therapy experiment at the University of Pennsylvania that killed a teenager. The stories led to federal hearings and reforms. She is the author of a critically acclaimed, award-winning book about the Vietnam War, “The War Behind Me” (Basic Books 2008), based on declassified military records and interviews with veterans and former administration officials.
Her professional associations include: Fulbright Specialist in Investigative Reporting; advisory board, Fund for Investigative Journalism, a nonprofit organization that awards reporting grants to journalists around the world; advisory board, Investigative Reporting Workshop, a nonprofit, independent investigative reporting center; and past president, Investigative Reporters and Editors, the leading professional organization in the world for investigative journalists.