The University of Illinois’ Department of Journalism and the College of Media presented the 2014 Illinois Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Journalism to Roger Ebert, Film Critic and Journalist, on February 11, 2014, at a ceremony and dinner held at The University Club, in Chicago, Ill.


Roger EbertRoger Joseph Ebert was born in Urbana, Illinois June 18, 1942, the son of Walter and Annabel Ebert. His father was an electrician at the University of Illinois; his mother was a bookkeeper.

He was active in school joining the swim team, acting in plays, founding a club, co-hosting a school radio program and co-editing the school newspaper. He was elected president of his senior class at Urbana High School. Roger’s first professional writing job came from The News-Gazette where he covered high school sports. As a student at the University of Illinois, Roger served as editor of the Daily Illini; he graduated in 1964.

Roger became the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times in 1967 and remained for forty-six years until his death on April 4, 2013. He was the first film critic to receive the Pulitzer Prize in 1975, and is the only film critic with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He was a member of the Chicago Journalism Hall of Fame and was named honorary life member of the Directors Guild of America; and an honorary member of the Society of Cinematographers. He was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Screenwriters Guild and received honorary degrees from the American Film Institute, the Art Institute of Chicago School of Film, and the University of Colorado at Boulder. In 2001 he received the highest honor bestowed by the State of Illinois, the Order of Lincoln.

In 1975 Roger and Gene Siskel invented a new genre of television with their movie review show, Sneak Previews. It later became Siskel & Ebert. After Siskel’s death the show became Ebert & Roeper, with Richard Roeper. Later Roger produced, Ebert Presents At The Movies with two new hosts. He was Lecturer on Film for the University of Chicago Enrichment Program from 1970 until 2006, was an adjunct professor in the Department of Journalism at the University of Illinois and recorded shot-by-shot commentaries for the DVDs of “Citizen Kane,” “Casablanca,” “Floating Weeds” and “Dark City.” Ebert has published over 20 books.

In 1999, Roger and his wife Chaz launched “Roger Ebert’s Overlooked Film Festival (Ebertfest),” an annual event presented every April in the historic Virginia Theatre in his hometown of Champaign-Urbana, Illinois.

In 2009, Roger and Chaz established the endowment for the Roger Ebert Program in Film Studies in the College of Media.

Roger said at the time, “The University of Illinois is deep in my heart as a great institution. It informed and enriched me. Although there were no film courses when I was an undergraduate, it nevertheless guided me in my lifelong love of film. I hope when this Program and Center are fully realized, they will inspire new generations.” The Roger Ebert Program in Film Studies will house the annual film festival, as well as other programming throughout the year.



Comments from Friends and Colleagues

“Journalists and editors use many tools to interest readers in a story ... a great 'lede,' a clever headline, maybe a provocative picture. For me, though—and for millions of others—the most effective lure arrived in just three words: 'By Roger Ebert.'” 

—John Barron, Chief Content Officer, Tribune Content Agency

“Roger loved the idea of reviewing movies on television from the very start. It was clear to him that television was a perfect way to tell people about the movies because the film clips would show viewers what he was talking about. ” 

—Thea Flam, President, Hill Foundation

“With every breath, in writing as in his life, Roger reminded us that films matter—not just as a representative of our dreams, but as a force that can empower and strengthen us, extend our horizon, connect us to each other and make us and the world better. We are all better human beings for knowing this, and for knowing Roger.”

—Milos Stehlik, Director & Co-founder, Chicago’s Facets Multi-Media


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