If it was warm fuzzies you wanted, journalism with Jerry Landay was probably not the course for you.
“Jerry came to Illinois after a long career as a journalist for CBS, working there during the years that CBS was the gold standard for broadcast journalism — Murrow, Friendly, Cronkite ... Google it, kids,” Jay Rosenstein says.
“Jerry was as old school as they come: gruff, impatient and direct. He didn't coddle students.
“And then there was the voice. Jerry's voice was a force of nature. It could shatter cement. Needless to say, all the students were scared to death of him.
“Perhaps because I was an older student — 29 when I first took his class — or perhaps because I had grown up surrounded by men of his generation that were just like him, Jerry never frightened me. In fact, I liked him quite a bit. Later in my life, we became good friends.
“Jerry's great passion in journalism was for documentary, particularly social issue documentaries. He believed completely in the power of documentary to change hearts and minds, and he regularly communicated that passion with his entire being each and every class. I was hooked.
“It was Jerry Landay's inspiration that led me into making documentaries. I thank him in the credits for every one of my documentaries, and will continue to do so for the rest of my life.
“I was honored to be invited to speak at his memorial, where one of the other speakers was Sheldon Whitehouse, the United States senator from Rhode Island, the state where Jerry lived from his retirement from Illinois up to his death.”
An award-winning documentary filmmaker, Rosenstein himself went on to teach in his alma mater’s College of Media after earning his second of three UI degrees — a master’s in journalism in 1998.
He got straight As in grad school — with one exception. Which brings us to his second greatest Illini influence.
“There is a second influential professor I have to mention, and that is the late, legendary Illinois journalism professor Bob Reid,” Rosenstein says “Bob was more than a journalism professor; he was a modern-day philosopher. Bob never met a conversation he couldn't make last several hours longer.
“If you went to his office to ask him a question, you'd better have packed a lunch and an overnight bag. And a gas mask. Bob chain-smoked so much in his office that after 15 minutes, you could barely see him through the clouds.
“After he died, I think the workers assigned to clean his office had to wear hazmat suits and ventilators. I bet it still smells like smoke.
“I got straight A's in journalism graduate school except for one B, given to me by, of course, Bob. I loved him anyway.
“I still miss him and his wise counsel. I think of him often."