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ISU School of Communication professor wins international award for script

Written by on February 24, 2023

NORMAL, Ill. – A script written by an Illinois State University School of Communication professor has earned the 2023 Award of Excellence from the internationally recognized Broadcast Education Association. 

Professor John McHale’s script “Blood Brothers” went head to head with more than 250 colleges and universities around the globe. The plot centers around a troop of soldiers made up of ISU faculty and students known as the 33rd infantry division who fought in the American Civil War. 

McHale uncovered the story in order to remember the legacy that the 33rd division stood for. The communications professor even says it’s a passion to recollect the sacrifices that many made to forge the unity we have in today’s America.

“I think it’s really important to remember the ISU students and faculty that crushed slavery and to keep this union together in the Civil War,” said McHale. “So that’s a particular passion for me, to remember those students and faculty that put their life on the line and that sacrificed their life to give us this great nation we have today.”

ISU’s very first President, Charles Hovey, was elected into office in 1857 but resigned four years later in 1861 to organize a McLean County regiment made up of students and staff of the university. Hovey had friends in high places and in the following years, made an impact across the country in the Civil War. 

“Hovey, our first President, was a friend of Abraham Lincoln’s and he was at the first battle of Bull Run which was the first major engagement of the Civil War,” said McHale. “After that engagement, Hovey approached Lincoln and suggested that we start a division based out of ISU. That became the 33rd infantry division. Other divisions called them the teacher division or the brain division. They subsequently played a key role in the Union’s efforts to dislodge the confederacy’s hold on Missouri.”

McHale was the recipient of the 2023 Award of Excellence from the Broadcasters Education Association. Established in 1955, the BEA was created to prepare college students who sought to follow a career in television and radio. Now students and staff can be recognized for outstanding work submitted across a number of different categories. McHale is humbled by his script’s recognition by the organization. 

“Well it is just humbling, because I know how great many of these scripts are,” said McHale. “The particular award that I won was the best feature film script written by a faculty member… which represents the top 15-20% of all the scripts that are submitted… It’s very validating, it’s very humbling and it makes me happy that it brings attention to Illinois State University and what a fine institution we are.”

Alongside McHale’s win was the victory of Best in Festival for the Student Scriptwriting competition. Sydni Stoffregen, a senior at ISU, was recognized for her script “Nevermore”. McHale says he was honored to work with her during the script’s creation. 

“Her honor is a particularly exalted one,” McHale said. “Sydni won the best script of all categories for students. I am so proud of her award for best of festival and it was an honor and a privilege to get to work with her…She just did a knock-down-drag-out job of writing a suspenseful thriller.”