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Our History

Our Springfield, Illinois chapter of the Association for Women in Communications (AWC) was founded in 1977 as a professional organization of women and men in the communications fields, located in Central Illinois. 


In 2023, the National Association for Women in Communications voted to dissolve, citing a loss of membership since the Covid19 pandemic, and a decline of volunteers at the national level. Our Springfield Area chapter voted to form a new communications organization, and in January of 2024 the Mid-Illinois Communications Association was launched.

Association for Women in Communications - Springfield Chapter

Celebrated 40 Years in 2017


Past presidents who led the Springfield AWC chapter over the last 40 years gathered for a group photo during the anniversary celebration. Pictured above: (front row, left to right) Lisa Rigoni, Beth Bosch Murphy, Chris Smith, Melinda Carson (seated), Martha Karatz, Patti Thompson (back row) Nancy Severa Zimmers, Joan Freitag, Naomi Greene, Jan Grimes, Carol Fowler, Jessie Decker, Christy Broccardo-Grove, Mary Bohlen, Dawn Tebrinke (Photo credit: June and Brandon Stricker)




The Association for Women in Communications (AWC) - Springfield Chapter celebrated its 40th anniversary with an Oct. 13, 2017 celebration in Springfield. The event celebrated the chapter’s history and honored the many professionals and communication leaders who have built and sustained the chapter since 1977. The program recognized past presidents and included a presentation on social media strategies from Carol Fowler, CEO and co-founder of KloboMedia Inc., who served as chapter president in 1981.



Historical highlights:

AWC Advantage recruitment video, December 2011:


More Chapter History

The chapter was founded in 1977 when the petition for a professional chapter was submitted to the national office. In those days, a chapter could be started by five at-large members. Monica Bayer [now Heaton], then assistant city editor at the State Journal-Register, took the lead. She had joined as a student at the University of Iowa.


We know three of the four other founding members – Delores Story Kaufmann, chief public information officer, State Office of Education (and our first chapter president); Francine Richards, a publications editor at Sangamon State University; and Nancy Severa Zimmers, (still a member of the chapter) who had moved from her job at Northwestern University in Evanston and was job hunting.


Chapter Grows


In its second year, 1978-79, the Springfield chapter had 15 members and another 30-some people on the mailing list. The members were – Kitty Behof, Jeff Brody and Mike Kienzler, State Journal-Register; Steve Eckert, WAND-TV; Fletcher “Bud” Farrar, Illinois Times; Christina Fenner, Capital Machinery; Ann Gillies (the chapter’s second president) and Linda Prather, WICS-TV; Imogene “Jeff” Hall, Lincoln Land Community College; Delores Story Kaufmann, State Office of Education; Tari Marshall, Illinois Information Service; Suzanne Muckensturm, Illinois State Geological Survey; Francine Richards, Sangamon State University; and Nancy Severa Zimmers, SIU School of Medicine.

Men Often AWC Members

The Springfield chapter has been a good source of professional development for both men and women over our 35 years. We salute these men who have supported the chapter with their memberships: David Anderson, Illinois State Bar Association; Doug Bohringer, Omni Communications Group; Jeff Brody, State Journal-Register (fourth chapter president); Ed Cobau, Central Illinois Public Service; Steve Eckert, WAND-TV; Bud Farrar, Illinois Times; Jim Grimes, Sangamon State University; Jim Grubbs, Sangamon State University (student); Don Kaiser; Mike Kienzler, State Journal-Register; Kevin King; Tom Laue, Association Press; Rich Popely, State Journal-Register; Jim Ruppert, State Journal-Register; Don Kaiser, WCIA-TV; Scott Troehler, Monticello Media.


Homecoming Celebration

A homecoming celebration for the Springfield chapter was held October 1999 at the Sangamo Club. There were five speakers during the dinner meeting, which was titled “Past, Present and Future – A Homecoming Reunion.” According to the chapter newsletter, the purpose was to bring together the membership “to meet, honor and recognize members upon whose work and dedication today’s current organization rest.” Former members, including all past presidents, were invited.

The third chapter president, Nancy Severa Zimmers, talked about the early days “when the members carried sack lunches [to meetings] and were considered a nest of rabble-rousers in the organization.”

Coming from Indianapolis, Martha Karatz, the fifth president, emphasized “how various opportunities have led her career in ways she had not always expected.”

Mary Painter Bohlen, the eleventh president, recalled some of the accomplishments of the local chapter and commented on “how proud she has been to see many of her students join and become active in communications organization.”

The then current president, Patti Thompson, spoke of the goals she and the board members set early that summer, one of which was to have the homecoming meeting. “This has been better than we had hoped for” to an appreciative audience. The meeting also was used as a recruitment event.

Anna Panocha, the AWC scholarship winner that year, came from Illinois State University and spoke of the challenges that lie ahead for communications professions and how she hopes to measure up to the ideals.

An Award Winning Chapter

The first time our chapter was honored by the national organization was in the fall of 1992, when the chapter received the National Outstanding Chapter Award. The nomination was submitted by outgoing president Denise Joehl and incoming president Jean Richards.

The accomplishments included hosting the 1992 North Central Regional Conference with speakers Gloria Steinem and US Senator Paul Simon and had 750 attendees. Our member, Joan Frietag, was serving as the region’s vice president at the time.

The other accomplishments that lead to the award were many. We published the first edition of the Making News in Mr. Lincoln’s Hometown, our media directory and guide, in cooperation with the Springfield Chamber of Commerce.  We hosted the third annual Master Communicator Awards for central Illinois, in cooperation with the Bloomington/Normal chapter WICI chapter and local chapters of PRSA and IABC. 


We celebrated Freedom of Information Day at the new State of Illinois Library, held in cooperation with Secretary of State and State Librarian George Ryan, Illinois Press Association, Sangamon State University and Southern Illinois University. And we sponsored another “Hearts and Darts” program, this one on women in the media and how they are treated as subjects.

Hearts and Darts History

The annual Hearts and Darts program was designed to help make media representatives and public relations professionals more aware and appreciative of each other’s role. It also provided a forum for a critique of local media performances. Below is a list of the historical dates, including presenters and moderators for each.

  • April 1978 -The Springfield Media Look at Themselves (written critiques)

  • May 1979 -The Springfield Media Look at Themselves (panel)

  • April 14, 1980-Critique of the Springfield Media (Tom Littlewood, University of Illinois; Pat Coburn, State Journal-Register; and Doug Kane, attorney, with moderator Barbara Dickerman, League of Women Voters)

  • April 21,1981-An Examination of Local Television News (John Whelan, University of Illinois)

  • February 23, 1982-Downtown Redevelopment – Did the Local Media Do the Story Justice? (Carolyn Oxtoby, developer/property owner; Mark Heyman, Sangamon State University; Don Loque, Springfield Central Area Development Association (SCADA); and Jim Grimes, Capital Area Vocational Center (CAVC), with Barbara Dickerman, League of Women Voters)

  • February 1984 -What’s News? (Ann Gillies, WICS-TV; Mike Kienzler, State Journal-Register; and Mark Belling, WMAY-WNNS, with moderator Bud Farrar, Illinois Times)

  • February 1985-How the Media Covered the Trial of City Utilities Commissioner Bonansinga)

  • February 18, 1986 -Covering Crime in Springfield (Michael Metnick, attorney; Mike Kienzler, State Journal-Register; Mike Murphy, Springfield Police Department; and Jo Warfield, WICS-TV)

  • February 18, 1987-News Coverage of the Voting Rights Lawsuit and Proposed Change in City Government (Les Vann, WCS-TV; Bob Mahlburg, State Journal-Register; Mary Carlin, WSSR-FM; and Janice Evans, WTAX-WDBR)

  • February 17, 1988-When Media Ethics Is at Issue (Tim Schweizer, WTAX-WDBR; Dave Heller, WICS-TV; Carol Fowler, WCIA-TV; and Pat England, State Journal-Register)

  • February 11,1989 The Media and the Campaign (U.S. Senator Paul Simon on his involvement in a presidential campaign and preview of his book, Winners and Losers)

  • February 15, 1990 The Governor and the Media (Don Sevener, Illinois Times; Al Manning, Comptroller’s Office; Diane Ross, Interstate News Service; and Ben Kiningham, Illinois News Network)

  • February 13, 1991-A Look at Springfield’s News Coverage (Mike Kienzler, State Journal-Register; Tim Schweitzer, WTAX-WDBR; and Don Sevener, Illinois Times, with moderator Mary Bohlen, Sangamon State University)

  • February 13, 1992-Women in the Media (Rosalynne Harty, State Journal-Register; Molly Hall, WCIA-TV; Gayle Worland, Illinois Times; and Cheryl Frank, writer/book editor, with moderator Polly Poskin, Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault)

  • February 24, 1994-Capitol Crumbs – The Media May be Hazardous to Your Health – Good and Bad Examples of How Women Are Portrayed in the Media (Stacey Curry, Rape Information and Counseling Services; and Mary Bohlen, Sangamon State University)

  • February15, 1995-Capitol Crumbs – Review of Local Media’s Treatment of Women in Advertising and News Stories (Mary Bohlen, Sangamon State University)

  • February 1997-The Public’s Right to Know vs. the Individual’s Right to Privacy (Bill Wheelhouse, WUIS-FM; Doug Finke, State Journal-Register; Jolanda Young, Illinois Times; Michael Metnick, attorney; and Mary Bohlen, University of Illinois Springfield; with moderator Charlie Wheeler, University of Illinois Springfield)

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