A documentary about Illinois chemistry alumnus St. Elmo Brady, the first African American to earn a PhD in chemistry in the United States, has garnered a Telly Award.
Created and produced by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the documentary, “Twenty Whites and One ‘Other,’” won a Silver Telly Award for 2020 in the category, “Non-broadcast—General History.”
The project was a collaborative effort involving the university’s Video Services, the Department of Chemistry, the School of Chemical Sciences, the University Library and relatives of Brady (PhD, ’16), who helped tell the story of how the 1908 Fisk University graduate and instructor at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama was offered a scholarship in 1912 to attend Illinois. Brady completed his Master of Science in Chemistry in 1914 and continued his studies under Professor Clarence G. Derick, to complete his PhD two years later, with a dissertation titled "The Divalent Oxygen Atom."
Many years later, he told his students that when he went to graduate school, "they began with 20 whites and one other and ended in 1916 with six whites and one other."
Todd Wilson, the director of special projects for Public Affairs, worked on this project and said that what is especially rewarding about this Telly Award is that Video Services doesn’t do a lot of documentaries. Most clients, he explained, need short promotional pieces, and, of course, the Department of Chemistry and the School of Chemical Sciences are not in the business of creating documentaries.
But, he said, with a lot of coordination among all involved and a tremendous amount of research, an award-winning piece was created.
“And, I’d like to think it served its purpose of telling a lot of people – many for the first time – about this amazing guy and reminding people how very broadly influential this campus has been,” Wilson said.
The Telly Awards annually showcases the best work created within television and across video for all screens., receiving more than 12,000 entries from all 50 states and five continents. Telly Award winners represent work from some of the most respected advertising agencies, television stations, production companies and publishers from around the world.
Watch this award-winning documentary and learn more about St. Elmo Brady, whose most enduring legacy involves his efforts to enhance and create undergraduate curricula, graduate programs and fundraising efforts at four historically black colleges and universities: Fisk University, Tuskegee University, Howard University and Tougaloo College.