Wagner Magazine, the alumni magazine of Wagner College, has won a Grand Gold Award in the Council for Advancement and Support of Education’s 2022 Circle of Excellence competition.
The Council for Advancement and Support of Education — or CASE, as it is usually called — is the leading professional organization for university fundraising, alumni and communications departments around the globe.
There were 20 winners in this year’s News/Feature (1,000+ words) writing category of the CASE Circle of Excellence competition, including six gold prizes awarded to Boston College, Notre Dame, Yale, Holy Cross, Stanford and Portland State — but Wagner College was the winner of the only Grand Gold Award, the top prize in the category. According to CASE, the Grand Gold Award is only given rarely, and many times it’s not awarded at all.
“Lonnie Brandon and the North Hall 27” tells the story of a student organization, Black Concern, and its struggle in 1970 to make Wagner College a more equitable place. Key to that struggle was the leader of Black Concern, Lonnie Brandon, who went on to a remarkable career of public service in his home community of Montclair, New Jersey.
“Lonnie's time on campus as a student and his impressive career that followed is an important story that needed to be told,” said Wagner College President Angelo Araimo. “Our students and alumni are making important contributions to their communities and they deserve the spotlight. Wagner Magazine has been an impressive publication for a long time and it’s great to see this story recognized by CASE.”
Lee Manchester, editor of Wagner Magazine and the award-winning story’s lead writer, first became familiar with Lonnie Brandon and Black Concern in 2010, when Brandon was organizing a 40th-anniversary symposium on the North Hall 27.
“If ever there was a born leader,” Manchester says of Brandon, “it’s him.”
As the 50th anniversary of the North Hall 27 approached in 2020, Manchester began working with Brandon on the story, which took more than a year to complete, bringing journalist Stephanie Siek aboard at the end of the process to help refine the 8,500-word original composition down to its published form.
“Stephanie’s grasp of the story was incredible,” Manchester said, “and her talent at recrafting big chunks of background without losing their significance was invaluable.”
The CASE judges in the Circle of Excellence competition were strongly impressed with the work of Siek and Manchester.
“Powerful story with strong narrative that was compelling and candid,” the judges said. “Also very well-written and keeps the reader engaged!”
Lonnie Brandon, the subject of the Wagner Magazine story, said that he was “elated” when he learned of the CASE award, congratulating Manchester.
“Your article was a moving and accurate account of events that took place over the spring of 1970,” Brandon wrote in an email to Manchester. “As a member of the North Hall 27, I am grateful and indebted to you for your efforts to preserve and document the work that we engaged in 52 years ago. Congratulations!”
Lee Manchester came to Wagner College in 2007 from Lake Placid, New York, where he was a feature writer and general assignment reporter for the Lake Placid News. Prior to that, he was a copy editor for the San Gabriel Valley Tribune and editor of the Lemoore (Calif.) Advance. Manchester’s writing and reporting have won him a multitude of awards, most notably the George F. Gruner Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism. He was the editor of the collected works of the late Adirondack historian Mary MacKenzie, “The Plains of Abraham: A History of North Elba and Lake Placid,” which won a special appreciation award from the Adirondack Center for Writing. He is the author of two collections of feature writing and historic preservation reporting for the Lake Placid News, “Adirondack Heritage” and “Adventures in the New Wilderness.”