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Columbia College Chicago

Prof. Economou Remembered

    A celebration of the life of Rose Marie Economou, Associate Professor of Journalism and Emmy-Award winning television producer, will be held at Columbia College Chicago on Thursday Nov. 17. A tireless advocate for human rights, Economou died unexpectedly of unknown causes, possibly pneumonia, on Oct. 2 at her home in Oak Park, Illinois. She was 65.
    The celebration will begin with a program from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at Stage 2, on the second floor of 618 S. Michigan Avenue, and conclude with a reception ending at 7:30 p.m.
     The Journalism Department of Columbia College Chicago, where Economou taught for 21 years, has established a scholarship in her honor. This scholarship will help students pay for international travel courses, which Rose developed and championed. Even at the time of her passing, she was planning a course for January 2012 called "Covering Europe from Greece and Turkey". Rose believed passionately that everyone should have the opportunity to enjoy and investigate other cultures. Contributions to that fund should be made payable to Columbia College Chicago and directed to Chris Richert in the Journalism Department, crichert@colum.edu, 600 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill., 60605.
    Economou joined Columbia College Chicago as an artist-in-residence in 1990 and became a member of the Journalism faculty two years later. She brought experience from a distinguished broadcasting career to her classrooms, starting with stints in the special projects units of ABC and CBS News, focusing on politics and elections.
    Prior to joining the networks, she achieved fame as a 25-year-old “advance man’’ for the presidential campaign of Ed Muskie as he sought the Democratic nomination for president in 1972. It was so unusual for a woman  to hold this job that Time magazine reported it as a national feature, describing her as  “persuasive’’ and “an attractive brunette from Chicago.’’
   After a foray into direct political action, Rose returned to broadcast journalism, working as a reporter and producer for WXEX-TV News in Richmond, Virginia, an ABC affiliate. She moved to Washington. D.C., in 1976, and then back to her hometown of Chicago in 1977, where she joined WBBM-TV as a field and documentary producer. In 1980, she was selected for a prestigious mid-career fellowship by the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. After her Nieman, she worked as a segment producer for CBS-News in New York and then as a producer for Sunday Morning with Charles Kurault.
   “Rose was bright, talented and passionate about her students and making a difference in the world,² said Nancy Day, chair of the Journalism Department at Columbia College Chicago. Rose encouraged Nancy to apply for chair when the two reconnected at a Nieman event in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 2002.
    She was an inspiration to her students, said 2007 broadcast journalism graduate Cindy Dababneh, a producer for Harpo Creative Works at Harpo Studios. "She really was a one of a kind human being, a great teacher, and mentor," Dababneh said. "Journalism was her love and teaching was her passion. I had quite a few classes with her while at Columbia and her passion soon became mine. She taught with such enthusiasm and taught real life lessons that would stick with me forever.''
    Victoria Coleman, a junior at Columbia, was in Economou's Media Ethics and Law class this semester. "I was just beginning what I would consider a wonderful student-professor relationship with her," Coleman said. "She had such a kind spirit. One of the things I remember her saying, as she welcomed us in class was, 'Ladies and gentlemen of the news... ." I respected her for allowing us to think ahead and to consider ourselves working journalist who are learning. She treated us with respect and was always willing to help. I will miss her greatly.''
     Economou won many awards for her documentary and investigative work, including two Emmys from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, in 1982 for Outstanding Investigative Reporting for "Uncounted Enemy, Unproven Conspiracy," and in 1979 for Outstanding Community Service for "Agent Orange: The Human Harvest." Her documentary, "Agent Orange: Vietnam's Deadly Fog," won the DuPont-Columbia Award for documentary programming, the Scripps-Howard Foundation's Roy W. Howard Public Service Award and the Chicago International Film Festival Silver Hugo Award. Her work was also honored with five regional Emmy Awards from the Chicago Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.
     A 1968 graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago, Economou majored in political science and education. She pursued graduate studies at the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., and earned a certificate in The Art of Leadership from the Lake Forest Graduate School of Management.
    She contributed articles to Nieman Reports, the quarterly publication of the Nieman Foundation, and was a frequent panelist and commentator on news and public affairs programs.
   Economou formed her own documentary company called With Heart Productions, and had been working on a food safety film for several years. She also served on various nonprofit boards in Washington and Chicago. She was active in promoting and developing the Hellenic Museum and Cultural Center in Chicago.
     Among her many accomplishments before she joined the Columbia College faculty, Economou was project director at the Main Street Media Center in Washington, D.C., creating “Henry Wallace: Who¹s in Charge, American Foreign Policy in the 1990s.’’ At WTTW-11 in Chicago from 1984 to 1987, she produced  an hour-long documentary called “When Will the Killing Stop?” on gang violence, and “Crisis on Federal Street,’’ analyzing 50 years of social welfare policy.
    “Rose was proud of her Greek heritage,” Day noted,  “and was thrilled to be selected Outstanding Hellene in Broadcast,’’ awarded by the United Hellenic American Congress in 2005.
    In addition to serving as a member and often chair of numerous college committees, Rose was a devoted teacher, concentrating in recent years on Broadcast News Writing, International Reporting and Media Ethics and Law.
    In addition to the family services, Day said the department will work with the college to plan a memorial service for her.
    Dr. Norma Green, a longtime colleague, said, “We realize this is a hard time for everyone, but know that Rose would want us to remember her by carrying on her idealism and making her proud.''
    Dababneh echoed that sentiment. "She will be truly missed and I am so grateful to have had her as my teacher while at Columbia. May her memory live on through the students she taught so well.''