Specific Media Relations Programs: Waubonsee Community College - Gold Award

2008 Circle of Excellence Awards Program
Category 8. Specific Media Relations Programs
Waubonsee Community College
Celebrating 40 Years of Student Success


Jeffrey Noblitt
Director of Marketing and Communications
Marketing and Communications
Rt. 47 at Waubonsee Drive
Sugar Grove, IL 60554
(630) 466-2907


Jeffrey Noblitt Director of Marketing and Communications
Linda Haugen Communications/Event Coordinator
Stephanie Wennmacher Publications Coordinator
Marcia Gehrig Graphic Designer
Mary Morrison Communications Coordinator
Jan Baumgartner Graphic Designer/Photographer
Debby Wilhelmi Secretary

Project description

As a key element of Waubonsee Community College’s 40th anniversary celebration, the college recognized and honored its top 40 alumni and students, calling them Waubonsee’s “Fabulous 40.” The central theme of the 40th anniversary was “Celebrating 40 Years of Student Success.” The inspirational stories of the Fab 40 reinforced Waubonsee’s core brand messaging and tagline, “Where Futures Take Shape.”

Media objectives

Community colleges still fight the overall stigma of the “junior college,” and this initiative aimed to highlight the local, national and even international leaders, in many different fields, who built their foundation at Waubonsee. The media objectives of the Fabulous 40 campaign included effectively communicating the 40th anniversary theme and the college’s brand messaging to the residents of the college district through a variety of media outlets to ensure broad reception by the college’s constituencies. The objective, quantitatively, was media coverage for each member of the Fab 40 in media outlets that serve all corners of the college’s 600-square-mile district.

Planning and strategies

In developing the Fabulous 40 initiative and corresponding media campaign, a committee consisting of the Director of Marketing and Communications, Director of Fund Development (Foundation), Assistant Vice President of Student Development, and Executive Assistant to the President (Community and Governmental Relations) chose the members of the college’s Fab 40 to represent the depth and breadth of the college’s student body and alumni. Looking at a pool of more than 250,000 former students and nearly 10,000 current students, this committee had many clear choices but also some harder decisions to ensure wide-ranging representation of key demographic, geographic and professional categories.

Throughout this anniversary year, a total of 40 alumni and students were recognized for their outstanding achievements and impact on the community. The Fab 40 embody the mission, vision and values of the college and represent the diversity of the college’s students and district, as well as the diversity of Waubonsee’s mission as a comprehensive community college.

Members of the Fab 40 represented numerous professional backgrounds that highlighted the quality of Waubonsee’s academic programs. Doctors, nurses, attorneys, bankers, musicians, social service administrators, educators, accountants and successful businesspeople showed off the college’s academic strength. Elected officials such as mayors, village presidents, state representatives, county board members, park district commissioners, sheriffs and police chiefs showed Waubonsee’s impact on the leadership and safety of our communities and district.

Humanitarians, community activists and organizers, and even an internationally known environmentalist and Amazonian tribal leader showed the tremendous impact Waubonsee alumni have had on the world at large.

Waubonsee kicked off its 40th anniversary celebration with the grand opening of the college’s new Science Building. This community event featured tours of the building with interactive science demonstrations, a building dedication, a time capsule ceremony, and recognition of the first Fabulous 40 member, a prominent local physician. Press releases about the event introduced the first Fab 40 and the overall initiative in addition to a separate release with an in-depth biography.

Throughout the next year, press releases introduced the members of the Fabulous 40 to the community via the many local daily and weekly newspapers in the college’s district, as well as by postings on the college Web site. In-depth interviews were conducted with each member of the Fab 40, nearly every one in person, to craft a thorough biography and also link the success of each to their foundation gained at Waubonsee. A standard list of questions drew out stories of how each Fab 40 member blossomed at Waubonsee, found mentors, and succeeded beyond their expectations — all messages tied to the college’s mission, vision and values. Also, a professional photographer took engaging portraits of each Fab 40 member that visually communicated the profession and personality of each.

The Grand Opening of the Academic and Professional Center in September 2007 represented the finale of the 40th anniversary. This event invited all members of the community to tour this new academic building, which includes event and conference space for community organizations. This capstone event enabled the college to formally recognize the Fab 40 at this Grand Opening in an emotion-filled ceremony. The event invitations and programs prominently featured the Fabulous 40. Thirty-five of the 40 attended the event. A poster-sized framed portrait of each Fab 40 recipient was displayed at the event, creating a gallery that will become part of the college’s permanent history. This gallery provided a showcase for community members to see the 40 success stories in one place, and many of the Fab 40 and their families posed for photographs in front of their posters. The program concluded with a ceremony calling each member of the Fab 40 to the stage to receive a miniature version of their Fab 40 poster as a commemorative gift. Triumphant music and a high-energy announcer introduced each Fab 40 member.

Press releases sent to all local and regional media are included here. In addition to these releases, additional communications also were used in several cases such as pitching Latino Fab 40 stories to local bilingual publications and a Greek-American humanitarian Fab 40 member to Greek-American media outlets nationally.

Fab 40 biographies and photos will remain posted on the college’s Web site to continue the impact of this initiative.


The audience for this media relations initiative included every in-district community member, alumni, faculty, staff, key opinion leaders and government officials and local and regional media.


This initiative drew on the time of members of the selection committee at the outset. Then, one employee, the Marketing Communications Manager, coordinated the in-depth interviews, conducted each interview, and worked with an outside professional photographer to have accompanying high-quality photographic portraits of each member of the Fabulous 40.

Other than the outlay of time and travel expenses, which were less than $1,000, the most significant expense was the photographer’s fees, which averaged approximately $325 per photo shoot or $13,000.


This media relations initiative greatly impacted the mission of the institution and the extension of the college’s brand identity. Waubonsee unveiled a new brand identity with the opening of the college’s new Science Building and kick-off of the 40th anniversary celebration. Each story that ran on a Fabulous 40 member served to remind key constituencies including community members, internal audiences and members of the media that Waubonsee’s brand is built on the real stories of student success that so many of our graduates have realized.


During Waubonsee’s 40th anniversary year, the Fab 40 have been featured in dozens of newspaper articles reporting their distinctive achievements and Waubonsee’s central role in their success. Examples of this coverage are included. The Fab 40 were also featured prominently in a special Waubonsee 40th anniversary commemorative insert that ran in six local newspapers and was distributed to 100,000 community members.

The Science Building Grand Opening drew 225 attendees who learned of the Fab 40 initiative. Subsequent media coverage of this event included nine newspaper articles with an equivalent ad value of $8,510. Attendance at the Academic and Professional Center Grand Opening exceeded 400 with 12 newspaper articles resulting in an equivalent ad value of $7,035.

Media coverage specifically on the Fab 40 members and the overall initiative included 46 articles with an equivalent ad value of $32,000. In total, the initiative resulted in 67 articles and $47,545 in equivalent ad value. Given that each of these stories clearly illustrated Waubonsee’s impact on the community and on individual lives, reinforcing the college’s core brand messages, this was a tremendous media success.