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Storied Sportscaster Lends Brand to Bradley

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Famed sportscaster Charley Steiner ’71 HON ’10 (right) talks with Dr. Ron Koperski, associate professor emeritus of communication, during a video shoot in connection with the dedication of The Charley Steiner School of Sports Communication at Bradley. Steiner, play-by-play broadcaster for the Los Angeles Dodgers, also spoke with classes and visited the Renaissance Coliseum.

As a broadcaster for two iconic baseball franchises — the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers — and a key figure at sports network ESPN, Charley Steiner ’71 HON ’10 has left an indelible mark on sportscasting. With the March 31 dedication of The Charley Steiner School of Sports Communication at the Caterpillar Global Communications Center, he now leaves an enduring legacy on the Hilltop. 

Announced in January at the Slane College of Communications and Fine Arts’ 15th annual Hollywood Gala Reception at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, a gift by Steiner helped create the first named school of sports communication in the nation.

“Of the 23,981 days I have lived on earth, there haven’t been very many, or any for that matter, more satisfying and gratifying than this one,” Steiner said at the dedication ceremony. “Some of the most meaningful days of my life have taken place on the Hilltop.”

The four-time Emmy Award-winning broadcaster will spend a week each fall teaching on campus and will invite other media professionals to join him at The Steiner School. His gift will expand offerings for internships, create symposiums and lectureships, and enhance options for expedition courses and trips to major sports and media markets in the U.S. and abroad.

Before the dedication, Steiner had breakfast with students, met with classes and was interviewed for a video segment by Dr. Ron Koperski, associate professor emeritus of communication.

“Bradley can become a driving force in ways we can’t even begin to project,” the 11-season Dodgers broadcaster said. “Being part of that process, from the place where it all began for me, brings an overwhelming sense of pride and joy.”

A 2003 Bradley Centurion and member of the University’s Athletics Hall of Fame since 1995, Steiner received the Lydia Moss Bradley Award, which honors those who have given outstanding service to the University, in 1991. He endowed the annual Charles H. Steiner Scholarship for Bradley broadcasting majors in 2000. Steiner was the featured speaker at the December 2010 commencement where he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree.

One of only 17 sportscasters in the National Radio Hall of Fame, he is among several famous broadcasters and announcers with connections to Bradley, such as Ralph Lawler ’61, Brad Johansen ’84, the late Jack Brickhouse ’37 HON ’90 and Chick Hearn.

“We are storytellers and not the story. The story is not about us but how we tell the story … with our own unique experiences, sensibilities, perspectives and vocabularies.”

— Charley Steiner ’71 HON ’10

“Media formats have changed, but there remains one constant,” he explained. “We are storytellers and not the story. The story is not about us but how we tell the story — with our ability to sympathize and empathize, with our own unique experiences, sensibilities, perspectives and vocabularies.” 

Bradley President Joanne Glasser said Steiner’s gift helps the sports communication school continue to be an academic leader. “The Bradley community is forever appreciative to him for lending his good name, legendary by any measure, to our leading sports communication program.”

Dr. Jeff Huberman, dean of the Slane College of Communications and Fine Arts, noted the new venture will help attract the best students and faculty while strengthening connections with industry professionals.

‘Once-in-a-Lifetime Moment’

Starting at radio stations WRBU on campus and WIRL in Peoria while a student, Steiner worked in Iowa, Connecticut, Cleveland and New York City before moving to ESPN. He has won numerous broadcasting awards and a national Clarion Award for excellence in communications for his coverage of the Mike Tyson trial.

“On the GPS of my career, the starting point had to be to get on the radio any way I could, anywhere I could, doing everything I could,” Steiner commented. “So I did.”

The Steiner School was praised by fellow broadcasters and friends, including former baseball commissioner Bud Selig. “Charley has chronicled two of our storied franchises and all of baseball with passion, enthusiasm and humor — qualities that will serve Bradley students well in all their pursuits,” he said.

Famed broadcaster Larry King, HON ’09 commented, “It will help future students to learn the world of sports broadcasting from the concepts of a guy who has really devoted his life to the profession itself.”

Online

Visit bradley.edu/SteinerSchool for more information about The Charley Steiner School of Sports Communication.

Dr. Paul Gullifor, Henry Means Pindell endowed chair of the Department of Communication, noted the sports communication program started in the fall of 2009 as a concentration and became a major in 2014. It now has 120 majors, and its students have interned for NBC at the Olympics in London and in Sochi, Russia, as well as at Super Bowl XLVI. They also have worked with professional and amateur sports teams, marketing groups and media outlets.

Remarking that his career began “at a time when the words ‘sports’ and ‘journalism’ rarely shared the same book, much less the same sentence,” Steiner sees the school’s purpose as incorporating many elements of the communications industry, including business, marketing and the Internet.

“It’s not just teaching how to do play-by-play. Journalism is involved; ethics is involved,” commented the former Scout staff member. “If we send students down the path, and ethics and thoughtfulness are part of the deal, I’m all in.”

Born and raised near New York City and a lifelong fan of the Dodgers, Steiner recalled when he decided to join the team as a broadcaster after the 2004 season. While visiting his mother at his childhood home, Steiner received a long-distance phone call from famed announcer Vin Scully, his childhood idol, welcoming him to the Dodgers family.

“Everyone should have a once-in-a-lifetime moment like that,” he recalled. “Today, I am having a second once-in-a-lifetime moment — two more than I could ever have expected, much less dreamed of. For that, I will be eternally grateful.”

— By Bob Grimson ’81
Photography by Duane Zehr