Anne Keegan Award: Past Winners

2021: Madeline Buckley

The 2022 Keegan Award went to Chicago Tribune reporter Madeline Buckley for an engaging writing that makes ordinary people the heart of even the most extraordinary stories.

With sensitivity and attention to detail, she has introduced readers to holocaust survivors, COVID victims and the everyday people traumatized by Chicago violence.

The judges were especially moved by her story of a Green Line rider who stayed with a fellow passenger after he had been fatally shot during an evening commute. Time again, through thorough reporting and compelling prose, she demonstrated the importance – and beauty – of writing about the common man.

2020: Stacy St. Clair

Stacy St. Clair’s clear-eyed and deeply-reported stories showed the battle against the coronavirus from the perspectives of the everyday people who fought on the frontlines. The nurses in Roseland who brought in their own thermometers when the hospital ran out. The hospital maintenance crews in Little Village that spent their mornings making sanitizing wipes the overwhelmed medical center could no longer afford to buy.

The first Illinois reporter to be allowed inside local hospitals after the pandemic took hold, St. Clair described acts of exhaustion, fear and courage. In these stories and many others she’s written over the years, St. Clair impressed the judges with her eye for detail, her talent for quickly sketching a scene and capturing the strength and character of people facing extraordinary challenges.

More on Stacy St. Clair here

2019: Lolly Bowean

The 2019 Anne Keegan Award honored Lolly Bowean for her deeply-reported and beautifully-written stories about life in the city’s African American community.

In her winning entry, she wrote about the ritual of older black women passing their expensive fur coats on to younger women, former residents of the Stateway Gardens public housing complex who, 12 years after the complex was demolished, still gather for reunions, and a 98-year-old woman who ministers to prisoners at Stateville Correctional Center.

In these stories and many others she’s written over the years, Bowean impressed the judges with her eye for detail, her sense of humor and humanity and – in true spirit of the Anne Keegan Award — her ability to capture the dignity and resilience of common men and women. 

See a video with Bowean and more on her story here.


The 2018 Anne Keegan Award went to Chicago Tribune columnist Heidi Stevens, who is known for her heartwarming stories chronicling life – both its ups and downs. One of her particularly moving columns was on her personal connections knowing deceased Chicago Police Commander Joe Bauer and his family. Commander Bauer was killed in the line duty while jumping in to chase a suspect at the state of Illinois Center. One of judges said about Heidi’s work, “Each one of Heidi’s stories blossomed before my eyes. They moved from being beautifully written small stories about common folk that ended up being large stories about the human condition filled with the kind of sorrow and hope that can’t help but move the reader.”


The 2017 Anne Keegan Award went to WBEZ’s Dan Mihalopoulos for three feature stories he wrote for the Chicago Sun-Times. The multifaceted Mihalopoulos, an investigative reporter and political columnist for the Sun-Times, was chosen by the Keegan committee primarily for his story about an undocumented Mexican woman who’d lived most of her life in the Chicago area and whose children were all American citizens, but who’d been denied the transplant that might save her life because she lacked a valid Social Security number.


The 2016 Anne Keegan Award was presented to Vikki Ortiz Healy from the Chicago Tribune. Ortiz Healy is a general assignment Metro reporter and Health & Family columnist. She specializes in human interest stories about family trends, special needs and remarkable people in everyday settings.

Ortiz Healy submitted a story about a sexual assault victim who decided to help others recover, another about a child’s heart transplant, and a third about a 99-year-old Wisconsin woman reuniting with the daughter she’d given up for adoption. The three pieces captured the attention of the selection committee, noting her work made them “think of Anne’s gifted writing style, something that imbues the lives of common folks with an aspect of heroism.”


The 2015 Anne Keegan Award was awarded to Chicago Tribune’s Howard Reich for his story about Norman Malone—“Childhood attack silenced pianist’s right hand, but not his dream”—and to Stefano Esposito of the Chicago Sun-Times for “Evi & Walter: A love story in any key.”

These two distinguished feature stories mirror each other. Each introduces us to an elderly man who overcame enormous adversity to distinguish himself in the world of music. The Keegan Award was founded in 2012 to honor journalists “who tell stories of ordinary people in extraordinarily well-reported and well-written prose.” The judging committee noted “Choosing a winner this year was especially difficult. In fact, it was impossible. For the first time, the judges decided that fairness required us to choose two.”


The 2014 Anne Keegan Award was awarded to Maureen O’Donnell of the Chicago Sun-Times. The Keegan Award was founded in 2012 to honor journalists “who tell stories of ordinary people in extraordinarily well-reported and well-written prose.” The judging committee praised O’Donnell’s obituary writing in the Sun-Times for its careful research and for her “gifts of inquisitiveness and an eye for the perfect anecdote.” Through “grace of execution,” the judges wrote, her pieces suggest “it was a pleasure for O’Donnell to spend time in her subjects’ company.”


Associated Press national writer Sharon Cohen received the third annual Anne Keegan Award for Reporting on the Little Guy. This award honors print and online journalists who tell extraordinary stories about ordinary people. Ms. Cohen wrote three compelling stories that captured the attention of the judges who reviewed 46 entries from 18 people. One was about an Army psychologist, Capt. Peter Linnerooth, who counseled soldiers in Iraq but then later took his own life. The second piece featured the triumph of the human spirit – a group of 12 Holocaust survivors living in a Chicago retirement community who have persevered to live long lives despite enduring hard times in concentration camps. Ms. Cohen’s third story profiled an Army chaplain, the Rev. Emil Kapaun, who was so beloved by the soldiers he helped on the battlefields of the Korean War that his determined comrades pressed for him to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor many years after he died at a prisoner of war camp. More than 60 years after Rev. Kapaun’s death, President Barack Obama presented the honor posthumously on April 11, 2014. Ms. Cohen’s winning stories really gave readers a sense of who these people were, what they did and the kind of impact they had on others.


Chicago Sun-Times reporter Kim Janssen received the second annual Anne Keegan Award for Reporting on the Little Guy. Mr. Janssen wrote a compelling and emotional story about the life of 62-year-old Mexican immigrant Delfino Mora who was senselessly murdered by alleged Chicago gangbangers. The killers were caught in part because they posted the beating on Facebook. The author went well beyond the typical police blotter story. He got to know Mr. Mora’s family at his Chicago wake and followed the casket back to Mexico in his hometown of Michoacan where he was buried in a grave he built himself. Mr. Janssen’s piece offered a glimpse into the life of a selfless man who worked tirelessly to make a better life for his family, traveling to and from the U.S. frequently to work in construction and other jobs. Once an accomplished musician in Mexico who became known as “Don Vale” for his popular singing, Mr. Mora became an U.S. citizen in 2006 and was extremely proud of that fact before his life was taken from him too soon.


Chicago Tribune reporter Colleen Mastony received the first annual Anne Keegan Award for Reporting on the Little Guy. One of the featured stories in her submission was a heart-warming profile of Oak Park River Forest High School head wrestling coach Mike Powell who despite a debilitating muscle disease continues to coach and inspire his athletes both on the mat and in life.