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School of Mass Communication to induct alumni into Den of Distinction

Loyola press release - May 7, 2015

Just a day before a new class of mass communication students walks across the stage at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on May 9 for their diplomas, the School of Mass Communication will take time to celebrate the lives and careers of three alumni who have already made significant contributions to journalism and media.

Tom Llamas ’01, Emmy Award-winning journalist and anchor of ABC News "World News Tonight Sunday"; Leo McLean ’58, esteemed producer and public relations expert; and Rene Sanchez ’87, veteran reporter and executive editor of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, will be inducted into the 2015 class of the School of Mass Communication Den of Distinction.

The Den of Distinction recognizes individuals who have distinguished themselves nationally by a lifetime of accomplishments or by extraordinary achievement. The 2015 inductees will be honored, along with the School of Mass Communication graduating seniors, during a reception on Friday, May 8, at 5 p.m., on the third floor of the Communications/Music Complex on Loyola’s main campus.

The Mass Communication Den of Distinction was founded in 2012 to honor outstanding Loyola communication alumni.

Tom Llamas is an Emmy Award-winning journalist and anchor of ABC News “World News Tonight Sunday,” where he reports for all ABC News programs and platforms. Prior to joining ABC last September, he was an investigative reporter and anchor for WNBC in New York. He has reported on everything from presidential political campaigns to the Boston Marathon bombings to the earthquake in Haiti. He has covered nine hurricanes, including Katrina, and in 2011 won an Emmy Award for his coverage of Hurricane Irene.

Llamas has been recognized with several awards and honors throughout his career, including Emmy awards for "Best Anchor" and "Best Hard News Story" in 2013. In 2012, he won two regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for feature and hard news reporting and was also part of the WNBC team that won the Murrow for breaking news coverage of Hurricane Sandy in 2014. In 2012, Llamas was honored with the prestigious El award by El Diario, the country's oldest and largest Spanish-language newspaper.

Prior to WNBC, Llamas was a reporter at WTVJ in Miami and a political campaign reporter for MSNBC, where he traveled to more than 40 states covering the presidential campaigns of Sen. John Kerry and the Rev. Al Sharpton and the vice presidential campaign of Sen. John Edwards.

Leo R. McLean, a 1958 Loyola graduate, served on the staff of The Maroon during all four years of his undergraduate career and as editor-in-chief during his last two semesters. In 2013, every single issue of The Maroon newspaper—dating back to its inception in 1923 —was made available online thanks in part to a generous donation from McLean. He has also generously supported student scholarships for mass communication students.

In addition to serving as the Loyola correspondent for The Times-Picayune, McLean also spent his summers working for The Shreveport Times. Following graduation and two years active duty in the U.S. Army Reserve, he returned to The Times-Picayune as a general assignment reporter, where he covered near-riots as the first two New Orleans public schools were desegregated. He was night city editor when recruited by a Loyola alumnus, the late Phil Johnson ’50, to serve as writer and producer for the special projects staff at WWL-TV, eventually moving up to become managing editor in the news department.

McLean joined the public affairs staff of Exxon Company U.S.A. in 1973 where he served as a writer and speechwriter for the president of Exxon U.S.A. He ended his career at Exxon in corporate contributions evaluation, where he prepared the company’s budget for contributions in the arts, local United Way organizations, economic and pre-college education. He also directly handled Exxon’s support of arts organizations in Houston.

Rene Sanchez, a 1987 Loyola graduate and former editor of The Maroon, joined the Star Tribune in Minneapolis in 2004 and has been the executive editor there since 2013. Sanchez’ journalism career began at The Times-Picayune, where he worked part-time in the sports and news departments as a Loyola student.

Sanchez also served as the Star Tribune’s managing editor for five years. During that time, the Star Tribune won the Pulitzer Prize for local reporting for its yearlong investigation of why infants and toddlers were dying in home day care centers in Minnesota, a project that he conceived and led as an editor.

Prior to the Star Tribune, Sanchez spent 17 years reporting for The Washington Post, including seven years as a local reporter covering crime, schools, city politics and social issues in Washington, D.C. He then spent a decade on the Post’s national staff. For six of those years, he was based in Los Angeles, covering California and the American West.