Bill Plante was raised in Rogers Park and graduated from Loyola in 1959 with a degree in the humanities.
Loyola Hosts Bill Plante Conversation
Loyola hosted an event for former CBS White House correspondent and Loyola alum Bill Plante Nov. 6 in celebration of his official papers being donated to the university by his wife.
The conversation was hosted in the Schreiber Center at Loyola’s Water Tower Campus and hosted several Loyola community members as well as famous local and national journalists, including CBS “60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl, “60 Minutes” executive producer Bill Owens, CBS Chief White House correspondent Ed O’Keefe and CBS2-WBBM-TV Investigative reporter and former president of the National Associate of Black Journalists Dorothy Tucker
Bill Plante’s widow and award winning filmmaker Robin Smith, as well as various family members, were also in attendance.
Bill Plante was raised in Rogers Park and graduated from Loyola in 1959 with a degree in the humanities, according to Loyola’s website. Bill Plante began working for CBS in 1964 and covered major historical events such as the Vietnam War, Pope John Paul II’s visit to the United States, Dr. Martin Luther King’s historic civil rights march from Selma, Alabama and every presidential campaign since 1968, according to Loyola’s website. Bill Plante died September 28, 2022 at 84 years old.
Bill Plante’s papers, which include his reporting notes and scripts from his time working at CBS, will join other collections in the Loyola University Archives. Bill Plante, who served on Loyola’s board of trustees, kept nearly all of the documents from his career, according to Smith. Smith said she was ecstatic to get the papers out of her laundry room where she’d been storing them.
President Mark C. Reed gave opening remarks and shared a brief overview of Bill Plante’s history at the university, from his time as a student to his more recent impact as a prominent alum.
The conversation was moderated by Jill Geisler who is the Bill Plante chair in leadership and media integrity. Geisler invited the guests to share stories from their time working with Bill Plante.
Bill’s brother Richard Plante said he thinks Loyola is a good place for the papers to be housed.
“I can tell you that a couple of other universities made inquiries over the years, but nobody ever really followed up,” he said in the conversation. “So I really think, given his working with them, given his propensity for all things Chicago and the fact that he was so closely associated with the university in his later years, that it’s the right place.”
Stahl reminisced on her time working with Bill Plante and recalled his kind temperament and guidance to new reporters.
“If the White House newsroom was a high school, he would have been voted the most popular,” Stahl said to the crowd. “There’s just no question.”
O’Keefe discussed his experience being mentored by Bill Plante when he was coming up in journalism and said it was important because we need the next generation.
“When I got hired at CBS a few years later, he was one of the first to reach out and we had lunch and kept in touch,” O’Keefe said. “He was very much committed and concerned for making sure that the next generations, you know, had the right council.”
Owens said Bill Plante was always generous and accepting of Owen’s ideas.
“Bill was just a relentlessly good person, he was,” Owens said during the conversation. “He said what he meant. He cared for people. He did care about justice, looking out for the little guy, holding the government accountable.”
Owens and the other guests also discussed Bill Plante’s love for wine, which often gave him a connection to start conversations with sources in the White House.
“He wasn’t a snob about it either, that was the great thing,” Owens said. “I remember one of the best lessons on wine from Bill Plante was, it doesn’t have to be expensive. ‘Do you like it? If you like it, that’s good wine.’ There’s plenty of great bottles that you can get for $19.”
O’Keefe said one of the things other reporters who worked with Bill Plante brought up when he told them about the event was how Bill Plante always had the ideal of what a journalist’s place should be when reporting on politics.
“He had a mantra on the White House beat and then even colleagues in other places know and remember is that we as the press corps are not guests in that house,” O’Keefe said. “That in some respects the president is the guest in that house and we, as representatives of the public, who are trying to get answers and trying to figure out what’s going on and trying to better explain decisions should run the place.”
Richard Plante got in the last word at the end of the event by sharing his belief of how important local journalism is and how it was an ideal he shared with his brother.
This article was written by Griffin Krueger and Isabella Grosso
Featured image by Holden Green / The Phoenix