Rovnan: Whoopi overshadows winners

The Lew Klein Award should focus more heavily on Temple alumni.

Chelsea Ann Rovnan

Chelsea Ann RovnanWhoopi Goldberg visited campus on Oct. 17 to receive the Lew Klein Excellence in the Media Award, but what exactly did she win?

The 13th annual Lew Klein Alumni in the Media Awards took place in Mitten Hall this semester. The awards ceremony was free, but each person in attendance at the luncheon had to pay a fee, as the money went toward scholarships for the School of Media and Communication.

After the luncheon, Goldberg held a Q-and-A session with students, which was held in the Temple Performing Arts Center.

There are two categories of Lew Klein awards. One is for Temple graduates – the Lew Klein Alumni in the Media Award – while the other is the one Goldberg was honored with: the Lew Klein Excellence in the Media Award. The latter honors individuals who have made outstanding achievements in the field of communications.

“One of the issues for that award is that they must come to Temple to receive it,” Lew Klein said. Klein has been an adjunct professor at Temple for the past 60 years, and has spent decades in television production.

If a star is willing to come to the university, talk to the students and work the visit into his or her schedule then they’ll be honored with the award. This is the most practical way of guaranteeing a visit from the honoree.

“They honor our school by coming to the school,” Klein said. Recipients are not given any monetary reward.

The Excellence in the Media Award has been presented to a series of high-caliber individuals over the past 13 years, including ABC’s “Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper and Today Show host Matt Lauer. None of the recipients of this award, so far, have been Temple graduates.

This sounds similar to what other colleges call “speakers’ series” or “lecturer series.” Colleges such as Widener University and Penn State also attract well-known figures to their schools to speak with students. However, many of the aforementioned schools charge a fee to attend the guest lecture, while the Lew Klein Alumni in the Media Awards are free to attend.

“I guess it’s only fair that they have to come here,” sophomore Georjenna Gatto said. She added that she sees it as a great way to drum up positive press for Temple.

Choosing a recipient based on availability does cast some doubt on the merit of the ceremony’s biggest draw. Many of the same criticisms leveled at honorary degree programs – namely that universities often hand them out to anyone who will speak at their college – can be applied to the Lew Klein Excellence in the Media Award.

The alumni who are being honored are deserving of praise, but rather than putting them first, they often come across as second to the celebrity who just happened to be free.

Of course, giving out the Excellence in the Media Award helps keep top-level names coming through Temple’s doors each year. But in reality, the Alumni in the Media Award is more of a “thank you” card than a true honor.

Klein said he’s proud of the success that has come from the award bearing his namesake. He said he’s thrilled that so many names in the industry have been linked to his own through the “Lewie.” The man clearly means well, and overall, the awards are a great thing for the university.

In addition to the Lew Klein Excellence in the Media Award that Goldberg received, graduates of SMC received a separate award in recognition for their work, dedication and talent.

There are about 60 nominations each year for the graduates. This year, four Temple graduates received the Alumni in the Media Award at the luncheon in Mitten: late radio host E. Steven Collins, 6ABC “Action News” reporter David Henry, ESPN anchor Kevin Negandhi and Deborah Veney Robinson, senior communications officer for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Noah Goldstein, a producer for rapper Kanye West, was honored with the Rising Star Award.

This award opens up doors for SMC students on a yearly basis. These opportunities include scholarships to help students pay for independent study, internships and study abroad programs.

“We’ve given 23 [of these awards] just this year,” Klein said.

Honoring Temple grads for their career success is wonderful, as is the amount of fundraising that comes from the event. However, we should take care to not overshadow the winners of which we should truly feel proud: our very own Temple Owls.

Chelsea Ann Rovnan can be reached at

1 Comment

  1. Chelsea: Just want to clarify that many speakers in the Philadelphia Speakers Series presented by Widener University visit the Widener campus prior to their lecture at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia. This campus lecture is free and open to the public. This year, Widener is welcoming Bill Bryson, Steve Wozniak and Billy Collins to campus.

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