After leaving Northern Illinois University in 1984 with a degree in journalism, award-winning sports writer and columnist Barry Rozner never strayed too far from his alma mater after launching his career with the Daily Herald.
And NIU officials keep finding ways to bring him back.
Friday night in DeKalb, Rozner was among 11 individuals (alumni, faculty and staff members) presented with Distinguished Alumni Awards by Christopher McCord, the dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at NIU.
"I'm very grateful to NIU for even considering me for this great honor," Rozner said. "It was a terrific evening and a very humbling experience, but certainly more than I bargained for emotionally.
"I think it is only natural not to dwell on the miles logged over the years, but it's tough on night like that to not consider some of what you've seen and experienced both professionally and personally. I know that was the case for me Friday night."
Rozner's 28-year career at the Daily Herald has been marked by many honors. He was inducted into the Northern Star Hall of Fame in 2011, and his work as a columnist and sports writer has been recognized multiple times by the Associated Press and Peter Lisagor awards. Twice he has been named Top Sports Columnist by the Illinois Associated Press Editors Association.
"NIU has many reasons to be proud of its graduates, and our readers have enjoyed Barry's work as a beat writer and a columnist for many years," said Daily Herald Sports Editor Tom Quinlan.
"They identify with the emotion and passion he brings to his work, and it's clear his professors at NIU had a big hand in developing that passion and commitment."
The five other distinguished alumni who were honored with Rozner:
•Rita Reagan Athas, president of World Business Chicago and former chief of staff for Mayor Richard Daley. Athas also worked for the Village of Streamwood and Village of Hanover Park, and is a former executive director of the Northwest Municipal Conference.
•Howard Blietz of Des Plaines, a co-founder of Greenbrier & Russel Inc., an IT services company based in Schaumburg, and now founder and CEO of Motus Digital, a cutting-edge studio and entertainment company that focuses on motion capture animation for commercials, film, video and games.
•John Brandon, director of International Programs and associate director of the Washington, D.C. office of the Asia Foundation.
•Anne Barrett Swanson, a leading cancer researcher, professor, and department chair at Edgewood College in Wisconsin who also became a tireless advocate for accessibility.
•Mary Wirth, chemistry professor at Purdue University who was a founding member of the Committee of the Advancement of Women Chemists. Her research into biomarkers in blood testing may lead to early detection of cancer and infectious diseases.
Rozner also co-hosts a baseball talk show on WSCR 670-AM. He has written several books, including "Second to Home," which he co-authored with Ryne Sandberg, and a memoir of Harry Caray that he wrote with Steve Stone.