Adam Winkler ’04, Distinguished Young Alumnus
Adam Winkler ’04 has spent the past decade as a reporter, not only covering local sports, but breaking national news stories as well. He has received countless recognitions for his work as a writer and broadcaster, including two Lone Star EMMY nominations and, earlier this year, a Barbara Jordan Media Award for First Place TV Feature from the Texas Governor’s Office. And all of this without a degree in journalism.
Winkler has said that he is “living proof that what makes Southwestern great is the fact that we are different.” He is constantly competing for both stories and jobs with graduates of major broadcast institutions like Arizona State’s Cronkite School and Syracuse’s Newhouse School, but feels strongly that the skills he developed at Southwestern have helped him network his way into interviews and job offers, and have helped him become a better reporter as well.
On campus, Winkler did not work at the University TV station - we don’t have one - or the school radio station - we don’t have one of those either - but he was a member of Student Foundation, a varsity baseball player, a Student Ambassador, and a member of Phi Delta Theta fraternity.
Winkler says, “Southwestern taught me how to step outside my comfort zone, think critically, challenge the source of an opinion and become more engaged in my educational journey. The lessons I learned on campus prepared me for the experiences I’ve encountered in my career and groomed me to be a leader in my field.”
A fellow Phi Delt brother says Winkler didn’t just sit back and wait for success to come. He has always made the most out of every opportunity, and through hard work has learned lessons that he continues to apply day in and day out.
With what many would consider a “dream job,” no one would blame Winkler if he focused on the glamorous parts, but he doesn’t. Instead, colleagues and friends say he focuses on human interest stories about athletes or coaches who might be overcoming a set-back or disability, often finding stories about competitors whom most assumed would never make the team. For example, last year Winkler told the story of an autistic wrestler at Bowie High School in Austin who only won a handful of matches in his career but left a lasting impression on those around him. His story about a local wheelchair tennis player, Francisca Mardones, who left everyone around her awestruck by her ability to turn tragedy into triumph, won the Barbara Jordan Media Award.
Winkler has the gift of writing in such a way that connects viewers with these individuals. Using his talents to communicate their stories to the wider public is the aspect of his work from which Winkler derives the most meaning, and in doing so, he is contributing to the well-being of society.
Using the words strong, caring and sensitive, Winkler’s parents call their son a talented young man of integrity and faith with amazing passion, keen wit and wonderful presence. In other words, he has charisma! They are proud of how he has developed as a recognized leader in the community and in his profession, and are certain he will reach even greater heights.
For many, there is no doubt that Winkler will reach those heights, for no other reason than the competitive world of sports broadcasting has never phased him, and that he never takes no for an answer. Director of Communication Studies Internships David Olson says that Winkler is an “unstoppable force.” He relates the story of one summer when Winkler was an intern for Channel 8, carrying cable and working his way up to camera work to editing to writing stories. Because he moved quickly and decisively and was out to prove himself, Winkler became a reporter. The turning point was when he was working at an Express (minor league baseball) game and spotted Nolan Ryan. Winkler knew he had to talk to him, and in his then impetuous way, rushed up to Ryan and stuck the microphone in his face. Although the former major league baseball pitcher was taken aback, he said, “Son, calm down and let’s try this again.” Winkler did, and the result was that Ryan had something important to say, and Winkler ended up getting the scoop.
For the passion he has for his career, for telling the stories that others don’t tell but that we all need to hear, and for his dedication and devotion to Southwestern, The Association of Southwestern University Alumni presented Adam Winkler with a Distinguished Young Alumnus Award for 2014.