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4062701932_59b0acdc52_m The University of Chicago has, once again after 13 years, decided to close famed Yerkes Observatory, the birthplace of American astrophysics and still home to the world’s largest operating lens type telescope. The University’s previous effort to shut down Yerkes began in 2005, when the college announced they planned to sell Yerkes to Mirbeau, an eastern resort company, for $10 million, to build a spa/resort on the lakefront Yerkes property and homes around the observatory main complex. The fate of the observatory structure and its contents were left up in the air.

The Lake Geneva community rose up at the prospective desecration of this beloved historical cradle of American astronomy, that includes the last 550 feet of undeveloped shoreland on the 26-mile circumference, spring-fed Lake Geneva, as well as acres of adjacent heavily wooded, steep land that had remained untouched for 120 years, since the university acquired it.

The uproar from the lakes community, university alumni, the news media and astronomy fans across the globe was so strong that by 2007 UC withdrew from their contract with Mirbeau, and agreed to continue to operate and invest in Yerkes as an astro-science education facility. Then just a few weeks ago,  the university issued a news release saying that it once again plans to permanently close the doors at Yerkes, on October 1, 2018. Their subsequent plans for the observatory and its full 77-acre site are yet unknown. They have indicated they are open to proposals, though no potential terms have yet been announced. The local community is gathering forces and planning what steps to take to preserve this legendary stairway to the stars.

Yerkes Observatory opened the world’s eyes to the wonders of the universe, and the long lenses still playing across the night skies continue to have the capacity to open the minds of young people everywhere to new possibilities. Hopefully, the great university and the community that has been home to Yerkes for 120 years will use that long perspective to pave the way to an even brighter future for Yerkes, the great stargazer.

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Source: KENNEDY TUNES UP FOR ILLINOIS

Lots of happy faces have turned their smiles upside down thanks to the cynical idiots who have portrayed clowns as evil or frightful characters, in film and out on the streets. Traditional clowns display outsized happy faces and act out the glee of innocent children. They came down to modern generations in circuses and on early children’s television shows as colorful, happy-go-lucky characters, who could juggle and do magic, jump around and entertain in a jolly manner, make characters out of balloons, and even teach kids simple lessons of life.

How very sad that the contortions of humorless cynics are busy taking away that delight from a new generation of kids, and even the adults who recall happier times, but fear those who now sometimes hide behind masks of terror.

Some of the brightest people I have known and worked with created the happy personality, engaging appearance and educational content practiced by one of the world’s best-known and loved clowns, Ronald McDonald.  They brought life to his jolly demeanor, and helped him entertain millions of kids at birthday parties, special events, on TV,in schools and hospitals and even, sometimes at McDonald’s itself.

Now, thanks to the rabble who have turned some clownish smiles into toothy glares, and even threatened people on the streets, even McDonald’s has been forced to keep Ronald at home more often. Spoilsports, nasty adolescents, small criminals and grossly-mistaken people have tried to take the clowns away from a generation that needs small jolts of simple joy and happiness more than ever.

I was lucky enough, some forty years ago, to have been part of a group that put special places of comfort and relief for parents of seriously ill children on the map of America and around the world. They are called Ronald McDonald Houses. How did they get that name? Not because McDonald’s, as a major financial supporter, had recommended the name. Because one of the volunteers thought that the happy environment conjured up by association with Ronald would give these houses an upbeat and hopeful image. The image was a happy one, and kids being treated for serious illnesses could get a smile when they heard their parents or siblings were staying at Ronald McDonald’s house, and even visit them there.

Two generations ago, my family owned part of a circus, and my Dad and Aunt had circus horses to ride, and clown culture was part of family life. My own professional life was filled  with creating events and materials full of upbeat clown content: Ronald McDonald Shows, including school safety and environmental lessons delivered by Ronald, working with the talented comedians and others who trained and motivated those who played Ronald McDonald, naming a major national and international children’s charity after that very clown — Ronald McDonald House Charities.

Today, the explorers of artificial intelligence are creating human-like exteriors for robots, so that people will find it easier to interact with them. A clown face is but an exaggeration of a smiling human, designed to elicit a big smile in return. Anything else is not a clown, but someone’s dark dream. I say, “Bring in the clowns, the real clowns, and let’s smile again!”

When you see talent, education and compassion come together in young people, the world seems like it has a chance. That was the feeling that several hundred students, faculty and friends at the Loyola University, Chicago School of Communications shared last night, when I had the honor of presenting the Ebeling PR-ize for excellence in cause-related communications to several outstanding student teams, for the 7th year.

The winning team, of the 11 groups competing for the 2013 PR-ize, created the campaign, “Make the Connection. Paint a Brighter Future” innovating social media and creative collateral materials and expanded outreach through art stores in support of an art therapy program that benefits inner city at-risk students.

Honorable mentions went to teams that developed communications campaigns to benefit Chicago Canine Rescue and a program to aid teachers and community organizations to integrate music into the curriculum.

Here are opening thoughts I shared with the students last night:

There are never enough opportunities to celebrate successes in life, and for all of us here tonight, this is one such opportunity. Mahatma Gandhi, if I may be so bold to invoke his name, said, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony.”

This is an occasion when we celebrate what has been done for the community by several student groups, and what they have communicated to others to assist these not-for-profit organizations.  Thanks to their individual skills, their professional teamwork, and bolstered by the communications strategies and technologies they have studied here at Loyola, they have made a positive difference.

Today we also celebrate Earth Day, when we take notice of an environment that still sustains our lives, despite many challenges. It’s an environment that sustains our health and physical freedoms as human beings. Whether we are running in the race of our lives, or just cheering on others from the sidelines, we are one people on one earth, and to some extent, what affects each of us affects us all. The events of the past week certainly underline that.

So let me tie this together by observing that there are people watching and learning from what you think, what you say and what you do. The efforts of all the student teams here tonight point toward the reasons that we can remain hopeful.

And what do we think about their efforts? We think they and their results are terrific. So, to paraphrase Gandhi, what they have done and said, and what we all think about them, are in harmony, and we are happy about that. Very happy, indeed.

In the Spotlight (from current Bradley University website)

Voter Drive Wins Ebeling PR-ize

From left to right: Chuck Ebeling ’66; seniors Taylor Fisher, Molly Geraghty, Camille Ivy-O’Donnell; Dr. Ron Koperski. Not pictured is senior Morgan Kotars, the winning team’s fourth member.

By Frank Radosevich II
December 14, 2012

Getting high school seniors interested in voting can be none too easy. But it’s an important task that four Bradley seniors tackled this election year with a public relations campaign that drove home the importance of elections to young voters.

The public relation majors—Taylor Fisher, Molly Geraghty, Morgan Kotars and Camille Ivy-O’Donnell—partnered with staff at Peoria Heights High School and Russell’s Cycling and Fitness in Washington, Ill., to organize events for the senior class at the high school on voter literacy and politics.

Their campaign, called “Momentum: The Voting Cycle,” hosted speakers at the high school, ran a mock election, created a voting resource website, had the high school seniors teach younger students about voting and ended with a Tour de Vote trivia race, which celebrated the right to vote with activities and physical fitness.

“It was a different way to teach them and I think students will always respond well to something different,” said Ivy-O’Donnell, who also majors in political science. “We did make it fun.”

Besides increasing voter awareness, their campaign scored another victory when it received the Ebeling PR-ize, awarded to the top senior public relations campaign in the Communication 480 class.

The award was established in 2004 by alumnus and Bradley Centurion Chuck Ebeling ’66 and Dr. Ron Koperski, a professor in the Department of Communication, and challenges seniors to design and implement a public relations campaign centered on a key social issue.

Dr. Koperski, who taught the capstone public relations course, said students gain valuable experience working as a real-life public relations agency.

“The process that they are learning to apply to their campaign is exactly what is done in the real world of public relations,” Dr. Koperski said, noting students follow the same campaign guidelines established by the Public Relations Society of America. “They are learning how to make persuasive cases for ideas and that’s something they’ll have to do out in the real world.”

The semester-long assignment integrates all the skills the students have acquired in their communications curricula and is sponsored Ebeling, who worked in public relations with several major agencies and national corporations before retiring from McDonald’s Corp. as chief spokesman and vice president of corporate communications.

“I feel like I am one step ahead of my peers from other schools,” Geraghty, who is interested in working in corporate public relations, said of the experience. “All of us were able to implement what we learned in class into our real lives.”

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When both political parties talk in terms of creating or replacing jobs lost by what they insist on misrepresenting as the “middle class,” they don’t speak of how we will re-employ low-skilled workers who are NOT candidates for college, management or high-tech industries. Yes, there are many who can benefit from more and better educational and training opportunities, including retraining, and enter or re-enter the middle class. But there are many millions more who were never in the middle class and never will be, because their abilities and capacities are limited, and more suited to decent manual labor, hourly jobs and low-skill positions. They are willing to work and learn, but there won’t be room for everyone in middle management and the lab.

The reality the politicians ignore, and seem afraid to acknowledge, is that the U.S. needs to create millions of new low-skill jobs, and the opportunity to do so sits right in front of us all. Our infrastructure in the U.S. is in bad shape, in need of repair and replacement — roads, bridges, dams, commercial buildings, apartments, homes, our forests damaged by fires, our commmunities damaged by storms. We need to upgrade our airports and build njew railroads. To do all that, and accelerate the rebirth of our economy, We need a new public works program nationally, and a private works program too. Millions who are not capable or ready to achieve middle class status in our society need honest, honorable, decent paying work to support themselves and their families. And they need it now, not in five years. Many returning veterans (and hopefully there will be many and soon) can benefit from that work as well.

What no politician speaks of or has any announced specific plans for is a “working class” jobs program of massive scale, to replace the manufacturing and white-color jobs that have been or will soon be eliminated by new technology or that have gone overseas to low paid foreign workers. Yes, we need a jobs program for the real professional “middle class,” but we desperately need one for the equally real “working class” as well. Where are the plans, and when does the work start?

Ran across the item below on the launch of FM radio, and now I understand the etymology of why FM stations are where one finds classical music stations, though we all know FM broadcasts are clearer and have less crackle than AM stations, where we typically find sports and news. When I was a student at the University of Chicago, my grand parents bought me my first new car, a red VW Beatle. It was the early 60s and most people had AM car radios, but I pleaded for them to  allow me to have an FM/AM model, because I wanted to listen to jazz and classical music while commuting to and from class. That  upgrade also upgraded the quality of my life. Thanks, FM, and grand parents, too.

“It was on this day in 1935 that listeners first heard FM radio, when the American inventor Edwin Howard Armstrong gave a demonstration in Alpine, New Jersey. Armstrong demonstrated the clarity of FM compared to AM radio by playing classical music and the sound of water being poured.”

My most costly magazine subscription is “The Economist” magazine (Economist.com @ $138/yr, with some lower deals available), but I think it’s the best buy, because of articles like the current (July 9-13) issue’s 14-page special report on the future of news, called, in its inimical British way, Back to the Coffee House.

In their lead story, the magazine reviews steps individuals can take to mitigate their worries about the transformation of the news business: “As producers of new journalism, they can be scrupulous with facts and transparent with their sources. As consumers, they can be catholic in their tastes and demanding in their standards.”

This special Economist in-depth section on the future of news brings the historical and social context of news into sharp new focus, and in my humble opinion, as a lifetime student of journalism, deserves to be required reading in schools that teach journalism, public relations and communications (reprints are available). As The Economist enjoins: “The coffee house is back. Enjoy it.”


We recently visited the Universidad de Salamanca, Spain’s great university, founded in this town on a hill in 1134, and today a booming campus of 55,000 students. Pictured below is the chair where doctoral candidate students of old would sit, with their feet pressed against those on the sarcophagus of an archbishop while they were questioned by professors in their final exam.

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