2018 Alumni Award Recipients

2017 Alumni Award Winners
Above: Kathy Best pictured left, and Mary Mitchell Beaumont pictured right.

Alumni Achievement Award | Kathy Best

2018 Alumni Achievement Award winner Kathy Best has covered news from the Statehouse to the Capitol, and from the digital domains of Seattle to the big skies of Missoula

Kathy Best, MA ’90 PAR, grew up in a small-town Illinois newspaper family. “Mom was editor, Dad was publisher, and my brother shot pictures,” she says. “When news happened—like on my 16th birthday when somebody set the jail on fire—everybody got up from dinner and left me sitting there.”

Best didn’t sit for long. After a false start in pre-med at Illinois, she transferred to SIU-Carbondale and graduated in 1979 at the peak of a recession. Graduate school seemed like the best bet, and her parents, who knew Public Affairs Reporting program founder Sen. Paul Simon and Statehouse reporter Mike Lawrence, recommended the public affairs reporting program. Her degree led her to covering the Statehouse for media company Lee Enterprises and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

From there, it was a natural transition to the nation’s capital. “D.C. was a great place to work, but I missed feeling connected to a community,” Best explains. She was dating a reporter who relocated to Oregon, and on a visit, she fell in love with the state’s natural beauty. She arranged for a get acquainted cup of coffee at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer at 9 a.m., left the building at 6 p.m. and was hired an hour later.

Best made her mark at the Post-Intelligencer’s rival, the Seattle Times, where she was hired as a managing editor for digital news because the editor said Best was the only person to have ever beaten him on story. Under her watch, the Times staff won 2010 and 2015 Pulitzer Prizes for breaking digital news, and its investigative team won a 2012 Pulitzer for investigative reporting.

Best became editor of the Times in 2013 and left in 2016 because she felt Seattle’s population boom had made it unlivable. Plus, the decline of legacy media meant drastic cutbacks. “I didn’t want to be the editor who dismantled the newspaper,” she says.

Best now serves as the editor of the Missoulian and the Ravalli Republic in Missoula, Mont. She’s fallen in love with big sky country, but she hasn’t slowed down. “Between having a congressional candidate on the eve of the election beat up a reporter to having a million acres burn this summer,” she notes, “I do not lack for news.”

*This article originally appeared in UIS Alumni magazine. 

Distinguished Service Award | Mary Mitchell Beaumont

How does Mary Mitchell Beaumont love UIS? Let the 2018 Alumni Service Award Winner count the ways—as an alumna, an adherent and an activist

Mary Mitchell Beaumont, MA ’89 LAS, came to UIS as a non-traditional student. She moved to Springfield with her journalist husband Jim and sons Mitchell and Matthew in 1972 so that Jim could cover the Statehouse for the Illinois Chamber of Commerce. Before his family joined him, Jim began taking classes at SSU and received his master’s in Public Administration in 1974. “I went back school to keep up with the rest of my family,” Beaumont says. “My husband had three degrees, we had two children in college, and I thought, ‘Hey, they’re going to be ahead of me.’”

Jim and Mary soon became fixtures at UIS. They frequented the library, attended art openings and auditorium event, and cheered at pep rallies and sporting events. Few things happened without them. When an event called for catering, Mary cooked. When WUIS, the UIS-related NPR affiliate, held pledge drives, she answered phones. “I’m proud to say I even judged a homecoming parade,” Beaumont says, laughing.

Beaumont was a founding steering committee member of the SAGE Society, the University’s group for alumni and friends aged 50 and better. SAGE has offered lecture series, “lunch and learn” events and dinners before Auditorium events.

As a longtime member and past president of the Springfield Branch of the American Association of University Women, Beaumont has promoted UIS’s interests. In recognition of her leadership, AAUW established a scholarship in her honor that benefits UIS female students returning to their education after an interruption. The Beaumonts later endowed the AAUW scholarship and also established the Jim and Mary Beaumont Endowed Scholarship for Public Affairs Reporting.

Beaumont also has been a champion for UIS causes dear to her heart. Jim—who died in 2013 due to an accident early in their marriage—negotiated the world from a wheelchair, with Mary as his primary caregiver. The couple advocated for accessibility on campus, as well as family-friendly restrooms. Mary also crusaded for the education and development of women as leaders.

Her latest cause? The new student union. When she learned that students who would not benefit directly from the initiative voted to increase their fees to help pay for it, she lent her support as well. “I was enthralled that they would see this as an important part of University and community life,” she says. “I’m thrilled it will be opened in February. I can’t wait.”

*This article originally appeared in UIS Alumni magazine. 

2018 Alumni Gala
2018 UIS Alumni Gala

The 2018 UIS Alumni Gala was held on Friday, February 23 at the Student Union.  Thank you to all who attended and helped us honor our exceptional alumnae: Kathy Best who was presented with the Alumni Achievement Award, and Mary Mitchell Beaumont who was presented with the Distinguished Service Award. View full event photo album on Flickr.

Event day photo collage