The Alumni Achievement Award and the Andrew Purnell Jr. Trailblazer Award were awarded to two successful Illinois State University alumni, Carl Hulse and Tiara M. Tucker, who are graduates of the School of Communication. Both came to campus for Founder’s Day on February 17 to meet with students and attend the award ceremony. Due to bad weather, the ceremony was canceled, but Tucker and Hulse made time to visit and share their knowledge with students and staff.   

Alumni Achievement Award: Carl Hulse

The Alumni Achievement Award is awarded to alumni who have made significant achievements in their field.

The recipient of the 2022 Alumni Achievement Award, Carl Hulse
Carl Hulse, recipient of the 2022 Alumni Achievement Award.

Carl Hulse started his journalism career as a child, writing stories on his aunt’s typewriter. In third grade, he wrote a story about a building his school was tearing down, and his school put it on the front page of its newsletter. That ignited his passion for reporting. Coming from a family of readers made Hulse a writer, and he truly found a passion in communication at a young age.  

Hulse attended Illinois State University and earned a degree in mass communication. He worked as a news editor for The Vidette, starting by editing wire stories and working his way up to news editor. His experience here set him up for a career in journalism immediately after graduation.

After graduating in 1976, Hulse worked for the News Tribune in LaSalle-Peru. Before moving to Washington, D.C., he also worked for The Daily Journal in Kankakee and the Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

In 1985, Hulse moved to Washington, D.C., to work at The New York Times as a night editor. In 2002 he began covering Capitol Hill, and from 2011 to 2014 he served as the paper’s Washington editor. Since then, Hulse has served as chief congressional correspondent and is currently chief Washington correspondent.

Hulse’s first book, Confirmation Bias: Inside Washington’s War Over the Supreme Court, from Scalia’s Death to Justice Kavanaugh, forced him to write, even when he was unmotivated.

“I made it a chore,” Hulse said, adding the he used the advance pay on the book to motivate him to stick to a deadline and finish the work.  

“It’s really good to be recognized by the place I come from,” Hulse said in response to winning the award. “This is a place where I grew up and got my start and for them to say, ‘We like the way you represent the University’ is meaningful.”

In addition to his work, Hulse is the drummer in a blues band called The Native Makers. Staying connected to the Illinois State community is important to him as is supporting Redbird Athletics. Hulse gives back to The Vidette through the Carl Hulse Endowed Scholarship and shares his experiences with journalism students and staff. 

Andrew Purnell Jr. Trailblazer Award: Tiara M. Tucker

The Andrew Purnell Jr. Trailblazer Award is given to alumni who are key innovators in their fields and have devoted much time, compassion, and effort to courageously make a positive change that enriches the lives of others.

Since her childhood, Tiara M. Tucker loved dreaming big. Her big dreams led her to enroll at Illinois State University for her bachelor’s degree in public relations from 2000 until 2004. In those four years, Tucker served in a variety of roles, such as Watterson Towers’ dorm president, vice president of the Theta Delta chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., and public relations chair for the Black Student Union. After receiving her bachelor’s degree in public relations and in business administration, she worked part-time at State Farm while working on her master’s degree in communication at Illinois State, graduating in 2009. Tucker described her time at Illinois State as “most special and memorable.”

Tiara M. Tucker, the recipient of the 2022 Andrew Purnell Jr. Trailblazer Award posing in front of motivation signs and her Tiara Public Relations Network logo.
Tiara M. Tucker, recipient of the 2022 Andrew Purnell Jr. Trailblazer Award.

After earning her master’s degree, Tucker received three certificates from several universities, including the University of North Texas, IAP Career College, and the University of South Florida. Her certificates are in mindfulness, life coaching, and diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. Tucker also completed a graduate course at Harvard University in 2020 for Nonprofit Leadership and Community Engagement and was a fall 2021 guest lecturer for that course.  

Tucker’s professional career started in 2004 in the underwriting department at State Farm. During that time she held a variety of positions, including public affairs specialist, corporate public affairs communication specialist, and COVID-19 re-entry execution core team communications specialist, and her current role as corporate responsibility analyst.

Tucker is the founder of the Speak That! Movement, a charitable organization that empowers professional women in business and guides them through various crossroads in their lives, including mental health and social injustice. Tucker hosts virtual events entitled “Speak That! Talks,” which highlight social justice, empowerment, and motivation from speakers and guests around the world.

Located in North Dallas, Texas, Tucker utilizes her Illinois State degrees as founder and owner of Tiara Public Relations Network, LLC. Founded in 2019, her communication firm offers award-winning communication and public relations support for business professionals, organizations, and high-profile projects looking to make a positive impact on the community.

Tucker said that receiving the Andrew Purnell Jr. Trailblazer Award means the world to her.

“I’m still in awe,” she said, calling the experience surreal. While weather caused the Founder’s Day awards event to be canceled, her spirits remained high after meeting the Purnell family at the Bone Student Center during her visit. She vows to “continue to be a trailblazer and to continue to make a difference in this world.”

Dreaming big is just one of the key ingredients that make Tucker a trailblazer. She encourages others to “walk in their purpose” and does so herself as a motivational speaker, entrepreneur, and communicator. She also tries to spread hope and positivity through social media.

Tucker stays connected to her alma mater through the Dallas ISU Alumni Chapter. She enjoys attending Homecoming when she is able to and finds it a great way to connect with her friends from her time here at Illinois State.