College of Communications honors five with annual awards

Five people -- three alumni, a faculty member and a respected former faculty member -- have been selected for annual awards recognizing their achievements and contributions to the College of Communications, the University and their professional fields.

The College of Communications Alumni Society Board selected the individuals who will be honored during an awards dinner Nov. 3 on the University Park campus.

Those selected were: the late Michael Chobot, a freelance sound editor and mixer; Gene Foreman, who serves as a visiting professor of journalism; Steve Kraycik, director of student television and online operations; Kathleen Pavelko, president and CEO of WITF Public Media; and Chris Wheeler, the longest tenured member of the Philadelphia Phillies’ broadcast team.

Chobot, who earned his bachelor’s degree in film-video in 2009, is being honored posthumously with the Emerging Professional Award. He died Aug. 6, 2013, after a 22-month battle with leukemia. Chobot, 26, made a lasting impact during his brief career and life, though.

“He was one of the most generous and good-hearted students that I’ve known, and he was a pleasure to have in the classroom and on the set,” said Richie Sherman, an associate professor in the Department of Film-Video and Media Studies.

Chobot, a sound engineer and mixer for DuArt Film in New York City, was nominated for a national Emmy Award for his work on “An Original DUCKumentary” in the category of Outstanding Music and Sound.

As a student, Chobot worked in the College of Communications equipment room and also served as a counselor at the high school film camp conducted each summer on the University Park campus.

The Emerging Professional Award is presented annually to an alumnus who has graduated in the past 10 years and recognizes professional achievement and/or distinguished community service.

Pavelko earned a bachelor’s degree in history (1975) and a master’s degree in journalism (1979) from Penn State. She was selected as the recipient of the Outstanding Alumni Award, which is presented to a graduate of the college who has demonstrated excellence in the field of communications, contributed significantly to their profession and gained an exemplary reputation among colleagues and students within his or her community.

Since 1999, Pavelko has served as president/CEO of WITF Public Media in Harrisburg. Under her leadership, WITF’s total assets and have quintupled and it has earned many journalism honors, including the DuPont-Columbia Silver Baton, which honors excellence in broadcast and digital news. Before joining WITF, she served in production and management at Penn State Public Broadcasting, was executive producer for West Virginia Public Broadcasting and was president of Prairie Public Broadcasting, based in Fargo, N.D., where she created North Dakota Public Radio -- the state’s first statewide public radio network.

Pavelko has extensive experience in non-profit management and governance and has served on two statewide commissions, as well as several boards. She presently serves on boards for the Harrisburg Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Salvation Army.

Wheeler earned his bachelor’s degree in broadcasting in 1967 and worked for radio stations in Chicago, New York and Philadelphia -- where he was a news writer and reporter and also provided traffic reports from an airplane -- before joining his hometown Philadelphia Phillies as assistant director of publicity and public relations in 1971.

He was added to the broadcast team in 1977 and was named director of the team’s community relations department in 1982. In 1991, he also became director of the team’s speakers bureau, a position he held until 1997. Additionally, Wheeler was camp coordinator for “Phillies Dream Week” from 1983 to 1999.

In the past 37 years, Wheeler has worked games on radio and TV, doing both play-by-play and color commentary. Having just completed his 37th season, he’s the longest-tenured member of the Phillies’ broadcast team.

He was selected for the Alumni Achievement Award, which is presented to a College of Communications graduate or friend of the college whose significant contributions to the college and/or university, in terms of time and talent, have brought distinction to themselves, the college and the university.

Kraycik, who joined the College of Communications in 2012, bringing with him 27 years of TV news experience, was selected for the Excellence in Teaching Award. It is presented to a member of the faculty who has demonstrated excellence in teaching, contributed significantly to the growth of students’ learning and gained an exemplary reputation among colleagues, students and alumni.

With his extensive background in news management and production, Kraycik teaches television news and serves as the supervisor of “Centre County Report,” the student-produced newscast that airs in 29 Pennsylvania counties.

Before joining the faculty, Kraycik spent a decade as a top-20 market news director at stations in Sacramento and Seattle. Among Kraycik’s memorable experiences in TV news are field producing coverage of two Super Bowls and a presidential inauguration, and producing a governor’s debate moderated by NBC’s Tim Russert.

Foreman was selected as recipient of the Douglas A. Anderson Communications Contributor Award. The award, in just its second year, was created to honor people for their achievements in the field as they apply to the College of Communications, the University and/or Commonwealth. Those considered for this award need not be Penn State alumni.

Foreman joined the Penn State faculty in 1998 after retiring from The Philadelphia Inquirer, where he managed newsroom operations for more than 25 years. During his tenure, The Inquirer won 18 Pulitzer Prizes. At Penn State, he was the Larry and Ellen Foster Professor from 1999 until his retirement from full-time teaching in December 2006. He taught courses in news editing, news media ethics and newspaper management.

As a visiting professor, Foreman continues to direct a conference of distinguished writers. The conference was originally the Foster Conference of Distinguished Writers but was renamed the Foster-Foreman Conference in 2011.

Foreman spent 41 years in newspaper journalism and was the managing editor of three different newspapers: the Pine Bluff (Ark.) Commercial, the Arkansas Democrat in Little Rock, and The Inquirer. He also worked as a reporter and assigning editor at the Arkansas Gazette in Little Rock, as a copy editor at The New York Times and as the senior editor in charge of news and copy desks at Newsday on Long Island.

He was president of the Associated Press Managing Editors in 1990 and in 1998 he received a career achievement award from the Philadelphia chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Foreman is a journalism graduate of Arkansas State University at Jonesboro. While at Arkansas State, he earned an Army Reserve commission through ROTC, and after active duty in the field artillery he spent 11 years in the Reserve, ending his military service as a major.

The Douglas A. Anderson Communications Contributor Award is named for the dean of the College of Communications. Anderson arrived at Penn State in 1999 and under his leadership the college has enjoyed a period of unprecedented growth and success, becoming the country’s largest nationally accredited mass communications program.

Last Updated October 31, 2013