The School of Communication is proud to recognize three Honored Alumni for 2015: Tom Crawford, Jay Groves, and R.C. McBride.
A few weekends ago, Tom Crawford walked down the same streets he did back in the 1980s as a student at Illinois State University (ISU). The streets have since changed, and so has he.
Crawford returned for a reunion with the fraternity chapter he founded with his friends all those years ago, Sigma Chi. Now, he is coming back to be recognized as an Honored Alum by the School of Communication at ISU.
Crawford laughed when saying he graduated from ISU in 1985, admitting that must sound ancient now. He majored in Mass Communication with an emphasis in journalism and a minor in public relations.
Today, Crawford is the general manager at The Specialized Marketing Group, Inc. (TSMGI), a Chicagoland sports marketing firm. In this role, he says he gets to do a little bit of everything. This ranges from client services and program management to facilities and operations including overseeing IT and accounting.
Crawford had three jobs before TSMGI. First was at Procter & Gamble where he was a field advertiser.
“Procter & Gamble was fantastic because they are a top company in the world, and very selective in who they hire,” said Crawford. “They loved the background that I had coming out of Illinois State with my variety of experiences, and they really respected the school as well. So it was a lot of kudos to the school and what they had to offer which helped me get the interview and secure the job.”
After his time at Procter & Gamble, he spent 17 years in a variety of marketing and communications positions at Motorola, a technology giant, before working at Miller Brewing Company, now MillerCoors, for four years.
“The first three, Procter & Gamble, Motorola, and MillerCoors, are really big corporations and I enjoyed that big business environment, but I very much wanted to do something different in a smaller business environment. That’s one of the main reasons why I came here to TSMGI,” said Crawford.
Crawford likes the variety of his current job. He says when working in a small company, you get to do many things and have a high degree of impact on the business.
“The neat thing about our business is you get to experience something from the beginning to the end,” said Crawford. “We create ideas for a particular program or the thought of it, then actually build or execute it, and then see the results of what we originally thought of from beginning to end. It’s something that I really like.”
While a student at ISU, Crawford was part of the Student Government where he was the director of communication relations, but he was involved in the school in multiple ways.
“I was a photographer at the Vidette, I interned for Tom Lamonica in sports information [now athletics communications],” said Crawford. “I got totally immersed in it and I think that’s my favorite memory. There were so many opportunities to do so many things.”
During Crawford’s time at ISU, Lamonica stands out as one of Crawford’s biggest role models.
Crawford recalled the first time he wrote a press release for Lamonica. He turned it in and without even looking at it Lamonica responded saying, “Is this the very, very best job you can do? You’ve left nothing out because this is the best you can do?” Instead of responding, Crawford took it back and rewrote it.
“There’s this mentality of just doing enough to get by, and he [Lamonica] made it clear that that wasn’t good enough. And that really sets you up for the future. So whatever is next for you after school, it’s not just enough to get by, you have to do your best all the time. That was something that really stuck with me about him,” said Crawford.
Crawford carried this lesson with him into his career, and he now has turned it into his own.
He advises students that there are going to be things out of your control once in your career. But, there are a few things that you can control. These are attitude and work ethic.
“You can control having a positive, optimistic, can-do and will-do attitude, which goes a really long way. And you can also control how hard you work and how affective you work,” said Crawford.
As one of this year’s Honored Alum from the School of Communication, Crawford is heading back to the place where he first learned these lessons.
“I am just really proud to be affiliated with the School of Communication and the University because it has continued to get better and better,” said Crawford. “Not every school or university can say that, so it’s a point of pride.”
On the fourth floor of Hovey Hall in an office next to the Illinois State University (ISU) president, Chief of Staff Jay Groves sits behind a dark mahogany desk overlooking the quad.
Groves, who has both bachelors and masters degrees in communication from ISU, has come a long way from his undergraduate days as a TV-10 student and member of the Sigma Nu fraternity. Since the early 1990s, Groves has served as an advisor to six of Illinois State’s 19 presidents. In recognition of that work, Groves will be among three Honored Alumni from the School of Communication during Homecoming 2015 at ISU.
As a student, Groves’ favorite memories start with his early days at TV-10.
“My first day as a TV-10 reporter, I covered a shooting at the corner of College and School [streets],” said Groves. “Someone came running into the newsroom and said, ‘Hey, some kid just got shot at the corner.’ It was a police officer and ‘townie’ confrontation. So I went up there and interviewed people. I had no idea what I was doing.”
That unfamiliarity did not last long. After finishing his degrees and spending time as a producer, assignments editor, and finally executive news producer at WMBD-TV in Peoria, Groves directed the TV-10 program from 1984 until he moved to the university’s central administration in 1995, when President Thomas P. Wallace hired him as media relations director—his first job advising the university’s leadership team.
“In 2004 I became assistant to the president,” said Groves. “And in 2013, I became chief of staff. And now there’s nowhere else for me to go, except retirement.”
Groves’ favorite part about his current job as chief of staff is working with Larry Dietz, current ISU president. The two help solve challenging problems, but find time to enjoy the work as well.
“When he [Dietz] came in, I was very happy because he gets along with everybody. He’s easy to work for,” said Groves. “He’s been in higher education for 40 years, but he’s still fresh and has ideas every day. We get along together; we make each other laugh a lot. We have a good time.”
Dietz expressed his gratitude for having Groves as his right-hand man and said he was fortunate to have inherited Groves after being appointed president in 2014.
“On a personal level, working with Jay is a pleasure,” said Dietz. “He is dedicated to providing stellar service, works tirelessly, and is a great problem-solver and valued team player. He works well with his colleagues and is just a lot of fun to be around. I am so pleased he is on the administrative team and that he is being recognized in this way. We are proud of him.”
Dietz relies on Groves to coordinate events, work with the media, and handle issues with students and their parents as well as sensitive public relations issues.
Groves frequently deals with upset parents. When students have problems, they call their parents. When parents get upset, they call the university president’s office, where Groves has talked to hundreds of parents about how important it is students learn to manage their freedoms.
“Everybody gets the same 24 hours in a day. It’s what you do with it,” said Groves. “When you’re in high school or at home, you don’t have the opportunity to stay out all night or go drinking all night because somebody is watching over you. When you’re here, nobody is.”
When Groves was a student, someone could blow off a semester and still be able to make it up. These days, blowing off a semester can cost upwards of $10,000.
Groves advises ISU students to keep themselves busy in order to effectively manage their freedoms. One suggestion he makes is to get involved with the Bloomington-Normal community—something he does himself. Among his service is work as a member of the School of Communication Alumni Advisory Board.
Groves attributed Illinois State University’s success to the people working on campus. ISU has a history of great teachers, according to Groves, and it pleases him when he hears President Dietz crediting faculty members for making the memories that students carry with them.
“I remember teachers from the School of Communication that took time with you if you had questions. They were mentors, they weren’t just teachers,” said Groves. “That was the most important thing to me about ISU. That was true then, and it’s true today.”
After more than 30 years mentoring students and working with senior administration, Groves still enjoys daily trips to his dark mahogany desk with a view of the campus he loves. As an Honored Alum of Illinois State University, he now stands among the greats from whom he learned during his days as a student.
The only thing brighter than R.C. McBride’s smile over receiving an Honored Alum award from Illinois State University’s (ISU) School of Communication are the many Reggie Redbirds decorating his office.
“I love ISU, I really do, and maybe this sounds like I’m drinking the Kool-Aid, but ISU changed my life for the better, and I hear that story from a lot of people,” said McBride
McBride graduated from ISU in 1995 with a degree in Mass Communication.
He is currently working as the assistant director of Illinois State’s University Marketing and Communications. At his job, McBride oversees the university’s trademark and licensing program and supervises the multimedia team.
Ryan Denham works closely with McBride in University Marketing and Communications and is very aware of his accomplishments.
“All over the media world, R.C. [McBride] has built a reputation as a leader who knows how to get the most out of his team. From WJBC to Illinois State University and soon-to-be at WGLT, R.C.’s passion for his work is contagious to those around him, like me,” said Denham.
McBride’s passion all started when he was 16.
“I got a job at my hometown radio station just as a board operator—WDAN, but I was board operating Cubs games, which being a huge Cubs fan, I was sitting there getting paid to listen to the Cubs games. So, I never really thought about broadcasting or journalism, but I kind of fell in love with it and decided that’s what I wanted to do,” said McBride.
While a student at ISU, McBride was part of TV-10 and worked at WJBC, a local radio station. TV-10 gave him experience in nearly all aspects of broadcast. At WJBC, McBride began as a news reporter and quickly rose to directing news, broadcasting play-by-play sports and, while still in his 20s, program director of one of the nation’s top news and sports radio stations. His individual work and team leadership produced awards for both McBride and his station.
During McBride’s time at TV-10, Jay Groves, a fellow 2015 Honored Alum, was the director. One story in particular stands out in McBride’s mind from his days at TV-10.
“There is video of me wearing this shirt, and it was just awful, and I remember him [Groves] yelling at me once in the earpiece, ‘Dammit McBride! Haven’t you ever heard of an iron?’ It was something to that effect,” said McBride.
McBride named Groves as one of his biggest role models from his years as a student. The fact that the two of the men are both receiving an Honored Alumni award from the School of Communication at the same time is reason enough to smile.
Groves said he has known McBride since his time as a student. After years together at TV-10, Groves notes that McBride was, “the best and calmest severe weather reporter in central Illinois,” during his time at WJBC.
McBride mentions that Groves was not the only professor to have had an impact on him. He says ISU’s School of Communication has always had a culture of being there for its students and being inviting.
In addition to his marketing work for ISU, McBride is part of the SoC culture of caring as a professor for Broadcast Performance.
“I would’ve never pictured myself 20 years ago being back there teaching. Sometimes it hits me when I’m teaching in the same room I remember having classes in. That’s kind of wild,” said McBride.
The best piece of advice McBride has for students is to not get too stressed out.
“You’re all young. You’re all smart. Enjoy the journey. You’ll have some great opportunities, as long as you don’t wind up in prison or bankrupt,” McBride laughed. “But in all seriousness, don’t be afraid to make mistakes. There’s no mistake you can’t come back from.”
In addition to this, McBride hopes students on the ISU campus will become more involved in our Bloomington-Normal community. He notes that ISU has many traditions like spending time on the quad, going to Pub II, and eating at Avanti’s. Being involved in the community should be another one of these traditions.
“There are over 20,000 of you here. There are only 60,000 in the town [of Normal]. So do a little math, and it is important. It’s your community too,” said McBride. “It’s your home. It may be your home away from home, it may be your home for only eight months out of the year, but it’s still your home.”
McBride suggested students begin by following the news, reading the Vidette, the Pantagraph, listening to WJBC and WGLT, or at least reading their websites and social media to be aware of what is going on.
Although McBride was not from here originally, he is just now approaching half of his lifetime in Bloomington-Normal. In April 2015, he was elected to the Normal Town Council where he aids in establishing policy, budget, ordinances, and votes on proposals.
After spending this much time around ISU, McBride sees the potential success of the students.
“Our students are kicking butt. You’ve got to flaunt it, no one else is going to,” said McBride.
ISU students are not the only ones kicking butt. McBride’s Honored Alum award shows he does his share of butt-kicking, as well.
“I’m excited about this. I don’t know what I did to deserve it. It’s very humbling,” said McBride.
After working closely with McBride, Denham can attest to his abilities.
“R.C. is proud to be a Redbird, and the School of Communication should be proud to have him part of the family,” said Denham. “This award is a wonderful gesture to R.C. and one that will make him quite happy. Not as happy as if the Cubs win the World Series, but still pretty happy.”