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Four communicators honored for achievement, leadership

April 6, 2009 By Dennis Chaptman

A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist will be among the communications professionals honored by the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication at its annual awards dinner on Friday, April 17.

David Umhoefer, investigative reporter with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, will be one of two individuals to receive the School’s Distinguished Service Award. Umhoefer earned a Pulitzer Prize in 2008 for his stories on the Milwaukee County pension scandal. A 1983 graduate of the school, Umhoefer is the 11th Wisconsin journalism graduate to win a Pulitzer Prize.

Also receiving a Distinguished Service Award is Patricia Wright, recently retired vice president for external affairs at BP America and president of the BP Foundation.

While earning her bachelor of arts in communication arts, Wright studied public relations with the school’s legendary Scott Cutlip, who helped her land her first job. Wright serves on the College of Letters and Science board of visitors. Wright will deliver the school’s Robert and Judith Taylor Public Relations Lecture on Monday, April 20.

The school’s Ralph Nafziger Award, given for outstanding achievement within 10 years of graduation, will be given to Elizabeth Medhin. A 2003 graduate, Medhin has worked as a television news reporter, first in Louisville, Ky., then Rochester, N.Y. In April 2006, Medhin earned the prestigious regional Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Spot News Reporting.

Finally, for achievement in mass communication research, the school’s Harold L. Nelson Award will be given to Garrett O’Keefe of Colorado State University. O’Keefe, who earned his doctorate in mass communication at Wisconsin, has written extensively on public opinion, political communication, environmental and risk communication.

O’Keefe has taught at the University of Denver and, for 13 years, was a professor in UW–Madison’s Department of Life Sciences Communication.

“These winners wonderfully reflect the school’s strengths,” observes James L. Baughman, director of the school. “Their achievements in journalism, public relations and academics well convey the school’s professional and scholarly missions.”

The dinner will be held at the Alumni Lounge at the Pyle Center, 702 Langdon St., with a reception at 6 p.m. and dinner at 7 p.m. Tickets are $25 each and may be purchased through April 10 by contacting Corinne Ahrens at or 608-262-3691.