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Charlie J. Johnson

Charlie J. Johnson

Editor | Chicago Tribune | Class of 2009

He can’t possibly sum up his Illini experience in one story about one place or one professor.

But one period? That, Charlie J. Johnson can do.

“As I sat to reflect on my time at Illinois, I tried to reflect on a particular place or person that really stood out, and the truth was I made so many meaningful memories they tended to run together — my mind hopped from one to the other quick as I could pin something down,” says the Chicago Tribune editor and Dean’s List regular (BS '09, journalism).

“I think the unifying theme of all them is this: Illinois is where I grew up. It’s where I regularly felt that simultaneous rush of excitement and fear that comes with stepping consciously into your new, adult skin for the first time.

“I remember how adult, almost erudite, I felt meeting my date when she got off work at the Stacks to go for a drink at Murphy’s. She bought them; I was underage.

“I remember doing my first serious reporting project off-campus and the weird thrill of driving back on Gregory Drive, running over the sentences I was hoping I would be able to pull out of my notes.

“I remember the bittersweetness of having to say goodbye to close friends on my porch in Urbana as we started our separate lives. That becomes a running theme in adulthood.

“I remember a heartbreak, utterly devastating at the time, that now feels worthwhile. The excitement of our first kiss in her bedroom and the sleepless nights in my own later on are seared into my brain, unfortunately, forever.

“It’s not so much one place or person I remember, it’s one combination of feelings: Excitement, surreality and just a little bit of terror.

“I remember growing up.”