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‘A Sucker For Fun’

By Mary Timmins.

ATTENTION, TYPE B INDIVIDUALS! DO YOU SOMETIMES FEEL TOO EASYGOING? STYMIED OR INTIMIDATED or just plain annoyed by  the overachieving demands of a Type A world? Weary of coming up against those who not only have it all, but look good having it all?

Here to bring you hope is the story of a television personality, writer and guy so all-around nice and smart and funny that he deserves his own classification letter, to be awarded right here and now. Neither Type A nor Type B, but Type G, for Geist – Bill Geist, that is, ’68 MEDIA, HON ’05. Though Geist’s story roams all over the country, it necessarily begins with the short walk and minimal investment that got him to the University of Illinois. When he graduated from Central High School in Champaign in 1963, UI tuition
was ringing in at around $135 a semester. For his parents, the late Russell ’34 MEDIA, MS ’50 ED, and Marjorie Gore Geist ’34 MEDIA, the question was “whether to send me to college or pick up the dry cleaning.” On a campus surging with algorithms and business principles and biology experiments and close readings of “Ulysses,” Geist set about studenthood with the laid-back attitude that has become his lifetime hallmark.

In the shelter of Alma Mater – if not necessarily with her approval – he majored in advertising at the College of Media and minored in pinball at the Midway Café (on the corner of Fourth and Daniel streets and since renamed the Illini Inn).

“I was not a great student. And I do regret that,” he observed in an interview last May, when he came back to campus to address the Biennial Conference for Women (along with Charla Krupp ’75 MEDIA, then promoting her book “How Not To Look Old”). “I mean, I tried to learn Spanish the night before the exam, and you can’t do that.

“I knew, like, two words.”

Marginal study habits notwithstanding, Geist has achieved professional heights somewhere around the South Col of the Everest that is journalism. A correspondent who wanders the country in search of killer quips and the stories that make those quips possible, he is author of numerous books, a sought-after speaker, former New York Times columnist and winner of distinctions ranging from a couple
of Emmys to the University of Illinois Alumni Achievement Award.

That he’s had fun doing it is not a coincidence. It’s the point.

Read more: http://www.uiaa.org/illinois/news/illinoisalumni/pdfs/Bill_Geist.pdf

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