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Following in well-traveled footsteps

Tue, Sep 11, 2012

Suzanne Hanney’s sleek blonde hair frames her bright face. It’s lit by her huge smile, with eyes wide behind the signature round glasses she wears. She is beaming as she collects an award for her writing during the 2012 Mate E. Palmer Communications Contest. The story was published in StreetWise focusing on the issue of homeless youth gambling. The magazine is something Suzanne is passionate about. This annual contest honors the talented professional writers who are members of the Illinois Woman’s Press Association. A 128-year organization with deep Chicago roots it has had a roll call of stellar women skirting its history who have reached many great achievements during their lifetimes. Suzanne continues to follow in their well-traveled footsteps.

The first board of IWPA directors represented the diversity of occupations of the feisty forty-six women who while frequently controversial, became IWPAs charter members, among them, Myra Bradwell, the founder and editor of Legal News and a publisher of law books, Dr. Julia Holmes Smith, a physician, medical writer, and former drama critic for the New Orleans Picayune, Frances E. Willard an international champion of human rights issues, Alice B. Stockham, an internationally famous expert on women’s health and sexuality; and Caroline A. Huling, a delegate to the first International Council of Women held in Washington D.C. in 1888 and the National Woman Suffrage Association conference that followed it. So it should be no surprise to learn about Suzanne’s own countless contributions to her profession and to IWPA since joining the organization nearly one-hundred years later during the mid-1990s.

Soon after becoming a member of IWPA, an affiliate of the National Federation of Press Women, Suzanne quickly immersed her energies volunteering in any number of professional activities and committees earning her the respect of her peers. Her IWPA associates would know of Suzanne’s winding route through small-town Midwestern newspapers on the road to fulfill her dreams of becoming a journalist in Chicago. Suzanne pursued her career on her own terms after graduating from Northwestern University’s journalism school landing her first job editing a weekly newspaper in Marseilles, Ill. While there, she would end up buying the newspaper for $1 to save it from closing down and publish it for a brief time before selling it to a businessman, for whom she continued to serve as editor.

Her next move was to Dixon, Ill., where she began as lifestyle editor of the daily Dixon Evening Telegraph. As “Reagan editor,” she interviewed the president’s grade school and high school friends, covered the president’s first inauguration and compiled a 92-page special edition that would later earn her a first place writing award from the National Federation of Press Women. National and international media also consulted her regarding the significance of the president’s roots. She would later serve as Ogle County beat reporter, assistant news editor and editor of the Sauk Valley Sun, a new weekly paper the company started in a neighboring city.

After working a year as a copy editor at the daily Quad-City Times, Suzanne returned to Chicago, where she would write for The American Banker and United Press International; in 1995 she would begin writing for StreetWise as a volunteer.

By 2001, Suzanne’s dedication to community involvement and professional achievements in journalism would earn her the Illinois Woman’s Press Association’s highest honor, Communicator of Achievement. After serving on the IWPA board in a number of capacities, Suzanne was elected its president in 2005. It was during her term that she would be honored yet again in 2007 as IWPA’s Communicator of Achievement and honored by then Cook County Circuit Clerk Dorothy Brown as Outstanding Woman for Women’s History Month that same year. Suzanne’s leadership would see her re-elected to hold another two-year term as IWPA president serving until 2009.

Suzanne’s hard-hitting investigative reporting has won her many writing awards throughout her career and in particular the distinguished Silver Feather Award for achieving the highest number of points among all entrants in IWPA’s 2009 Mate E. Palmer Communications Contest. Her state writing awards would go on to compete at the national level picking up top awards that same year from the National Federation of Press Women’s Communications Contest.

As a journalist, editor, and activist, Suzanne Hanney remains determined to use the power of her pen to focus on key public policy issues that impact the homeless, especially those at the heart of Chicago, her hometown.

By Marianne Wolf-Astrauskas

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One Response to “Following in well-traveled footsteps”

  1. A wonderful and well-deserved tribute! I had the pleasure of serving on the Board of the Illinois Woman’s Press Association with Suzanne for many years. Her journalistic and editorial skills, and dedication to the principles of good journalism, as well as her total commitment to community service and the mission of Streetwise – its staff and volunteers – sets an example for all of us.

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