Jim Schlueter

Jim Schlueter, ’80 BS JOURN, and his wife, Amy, are both grateful for the opportunities they have received as alumni from Big Ten universities. With this in mind, they have created the Schlueter Family Endowed Fund for Internships in Journalism. Jim and Amy shared, “It has always been important for us to give something back to Illinois, and we are thrilled to be able to help in this way by supporting students who are seeking internships. Gaining as much real-life experience as possible can make a big difference for our students when they enter our challenging media and communications job market. We know our students will make great contributions in their careers, and we are privileged to help them with a little lift as they get started.”

Jim Schlueter is firm in his convictions: “Before I even went to kindergarten or knew what high school was, I knew I was going to Illinois like my brother Ray did.”

Jim grew up in a rural area outside of Edwardsville, Illinois. His big brother, Ray, was 15 years older. Ray attended Illinois during the time of Jim Grabowski and Dick Butkus. In the family home were pictures of Jim’s mom and dad on campus with Ray for Dad’s Weekend and other special events.

Before Jim had any idea what he wanted to be when he grew up, he knew he wanted to go to Illinois. In high school, he discovered his love of writing and thought that he would become a sports writer. In those days, tuition was a bargain. If you could get into Illinois, it was the place to go. Jim was also fortunate that his parents were committed to putting their children through college.

Jim started working at the Daily Illini his sophomore year. “I am a DI lifer,” he boasts. “It was a great experience and the best place to hone your craft.”

Junior year he covered women’s rugby, women’s cross country and men’s track. By his senior year he was the executive reporter in sports, covering football and basketball. He was also the local stringer for the Associated Press (AP) his senior year.

While Jim was covering sports, the university fired an athletic director and a football coach. “It was not what you wanted to experience, but it was a real-world lesson,” Jim recalls. A losing team has a huge impact on a university and a community, and he gained valuable experience as a result of covering the teams during those years. He attended news conferences, covered Title IX enforcement and experienced what national exposure was like for the basketball team.

Attending those events as a reporter allowed him to meet other professionals from all around the state and the country. During the annual Missouri basketball game his senior year, Jim was sitting midcourt in the press box. The reporter behind him, covering the game for KMOX radio out of St. Louis, was Bob Costas. Jim remarked, “I was a lucky guy.”

What affected Jim the most were his fellow students. “The caliber of students made me realize how hard I would need to work, how committed I would have to be to succeed.” He recognized that Illinois was full of really bright, high-achieving students. At the Daily Illini, upperclassmen were the bosses for the underclassmen. There was a balance between competing and collaborating that made everyone better in the end.

Jim’s career has taken a couple of unexpected turns. After graduation, he was a reporter with the Daily Leader in Pontiac, Illinois, and then a sports reporter with the Danville Commercial News. He decided to expand his education and earned his MBA from SIU-Edwardsville while working as a sports editor at a Collinsville newspaper. He then went to work for McDonnell Douglas on its employee newspaper. After the Boeing merger, he moved into communications, working with international communications, commercial airplanes and technology. Jim credits his Illinois education for preparing him for this unexpected career path. “It puts you in a good competitive position,” he believes.

The information technology revolution and the 24-hour news cycle are the biggest changes Jim has seen in the communications field over the years. Issues can arise and spread quickly through social media, and communications professionals must know how to respond and know how to use those platforms to share their own messages.

What doesn’t change? The need for good fundamentals: strong writing skills, tight copy and stories without holes and gaps. Jim believes that the students graduating today are more competitive than ever because they understand new media technologies and platforms. Current practitioners must surround themselves with and learn from those who know these technologies. This is why a university is so important. Students are working with faculty to understand the world we are in. Those in the working world must stay connected to this laboratory setting where new technologies and concepts are being discussed and tested.

Jim’s advice for current students is simple: “Write, write, write, write, write, write, write. Writing skills are like a muscle. The more you work them the better you get.”

Jim is proud of his Edwardsville roots, especially the connection between Edwardsville and the University of Illinois. He mentioned his pride at coming from the same town as Mannie Jackson and Govoner Vaughn, who starred together at Edwardsville High School in the 1950s and became the first African-Americans to start for the University of Illinois basketball team. Both went on to distinguished careers on and off the basketball court.

For Jim, Illinois was a transformational experience. “I feel the responsibility to give back to a place that did what it did for me. I like that I belong to something that is bigger than me, and it’s a gratifying feeling to be an Illinois graduate. Illinois had a great impact. I hope others feel that way too.” Jim is a generous supporter of the university, giving his time and financial support for students in the College of Media. In recent years, Jim has made frequent visits to campus for classroom lectures and continues to provide guidance to students interested in careers in journalism.

Jim is also serving on the College of Media’s new volunteer leadership board, the College of Media Leadership Council, lending his professional expertise to the college’s new initiatives in the areas of fundraising, stewardship and advocacy.

If you have questions or would like to discuss donation options, please contact:

  • Marlah Bonner McDuffie
    Associate Dean for Advancement
    College of Media
    marlahb [at] illinois.edu
  • Jan Slater
    College of Media
    slaterj [at] illinois.edu