Three legendary Chicago personalities — weatherman P.J. Hoff, commentator Len O’Connor and sportscaster Tim Weigel — will be honored posthumously with induction in the Silver Circle of the Chicago Television Academy.
Among six living broadcasting veterans to be inducted this spring by the Chicago/Midwest chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences will be husband and wife Jay Levine, chief correspondent at CBS 2, and Mary Ann Childers, former news anchor at CBS 2 and ABC 7.
Also honored will be Emily Barr, former president and general manager of ABC 7, Lilia Chacon, former reporter at Fox 32, Dean Richards, entertainment reporter and critic for WGN, and Frank Whittaker, station manager and vice president of news at NBC 5.
The latest class of inductees was announced Saturday at the 57th annual regional Emmy Awards. Winners will be honored at a dinner in May.
The Silver Circle Award recognizes individuals who have devoted 25 years or more to the television industry and have made significant contributions to Chicago broadcasting.
More on the 2016 inductees:
Emily Barr was president and general manager of ABC 7 from 1997 to 2012, maintaining top ratings and revenues throughout her tenure. She was credited with launching the Live Well digital network and creating the daily talk show “Windy City Live.” Since leaving ABC 7, Barr has been Chicago-based president and chief executive officer of Graham Media Group (formerly Post-Newsweek Stations), owner of five television stations nationwide.
Lilia Chacon was a Peabody Award-winning reporter for Fox 32 from 1989 to 2010. Earlier she was a reporter for Chicago’s City News Bureau. Chacon now works as Iowa press secretary for the presidential campaign of U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders.
Mary Ann Childers was the first woman to anchor a top-rated 10 p.m. newscast in Chicago. After 14 years as a news anchor and reporter at ABC 7, she moved to CBS 2 in 1994 and spent another 14 years there as anchor, medical editor and special projects reporter. Childers now works as a senior consultant with Res Publica Group, a Chicago strategic communications firm.
P.J. Hoff, a Minnesota newspaper columnist and cartoonist, joined CBS 2 as a children’s show host in 1955, but found his calling as a weatherman. Using an oversized sketch pad, he illustrated his forecasts with cartoon drawings of happy suns, angry clouds and giant raindrops along with such memorable characters as a “Vice President in Charge of Looking Out the Window.” Hoff retired in 1968 and died in 1981.
Jay Levine spent 17 years at ABC 7 as a reporter, news anchor and talk show host before joining CBS 2 in 1990. In addition to stints as morning and weekend anchor, he has traveled the globe as CBS 2’s chief correspondent, covering covering wars, politics and natural disasters.
Len O’Connor worked as a news writer and reporter at NBC Chicago for 20 years before he began delivering nightly editorial commentaries in 1960. For the next two decades he was a distinguished news analyst, concluding his wise and courageous essays on national and local politics with the words: “. . . and I am Len O’Connor.” After 34 years at NBC 5, he moved to WGN in 1974. O’Connor retired in 1980 and died in 1991.
Dean Richards, a veteran Chicago radio personality, worked in Chicago television at WCIU, WPWR and WFLD before joining WGN as a staff announcer in 1991. He soon expanded his role to become the station’s nationally respected entertainment reporter and critic as well as host and producer of multiple specials throughout the year.
Tim Weigel began as a sportswriter and columnist for the Chicago Daily News and went on to become a popular sports anchor for more than 25 years at NBC 5, ABC 7 and CBS 2. He may have been as well-known for his colorful clothing and upbeat enthusiasm as for his trademark sports highlights segment known as “Weigel Wieners.” Weigel died of brain cancer at 56 in 2001.
Frank Whittaker joined NBC 5 as news director in 1998 and was promoted to station manager and vice president of news in 2008. He previously was assistant news director and executive producer at ABC 7. He began his career while still attending Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in 1977 at CBS 2, where he rose from desk assistant to special projects producer, assignment manager and 10 p.m. news producer.