A 1968 edition of SIUE’s student newspaper, The Alestle, featured a front-page story about a student swallowing a live goldfish — whole — in the campus cafeteria on a dare.

On Sept. 23, the then-student reporter who covered the goldfish gulping debacle was officially inducted into the SIUE Alumni Hall of Fame. 

Terry Ganey, who went on to become a Pulitzer Prize finalist, remembers writing the goldfish story while serving as the sports editor for the student paper during his undergrad years at SIUE. He was among the very first class to graduate with a bachelor’s degree from the Mass Communications Department in 1970 when the program was still in its infancy. 

“SIUE gave me my start down this road,” Ganey said. “I was going to SIUE just sort of casting about as to what I might do with my future, and there was this growing department on the campus at the time — Mass Communication. So, I took some classes, met some people there who were very enthusiastic and eventually started working at The Alestle.”

It was there that Ganey found his spark.

“Journalism was a job I thought would always keep me engaged, and it did,” Ganey said. 

Ganey’s expansive career has been impressive to say the least. He authored several books, including two New York Times bestsellers — "Innocent Blood: A True Story of Obsession and Serial Murder," which covered the release of an innocent man imprisoned for a murder he did not commit, and "Under the Influence: the Unauthorized Story of the Anheuser-Busch Dynasty," detailing the saga of the family who at one time controlled the largest beer-brewing company in the world. 

In his 28 years with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Ganey was awarded a myriad of recognitions for his investigative work. Ganey’s reporting served as a fierce foe of political corruption in Missouri, and some of his stories questioning the possible innocence of those falsely convicted of murder captured the public’s attention and his relentless investigative reporting helped lead to their eventual exoneration.

For Ganey, investigative reporting gave him a thrill and a sense of duty to uncover the truth.

“You have your everyday surface news, but there is more valuable news to be found digging deeper. There are some things that happen that people would rather have you not report, and those were the stories I enjoyed seeking out most,” Ganey said. “The Second Injury Fund was one of them, and probably the most important story I ever did.”

The Missouri Second Injury Fund is a workers' compensation fund for those who had been injured on the job. In these instances, an employer's insurance company pays a benefit for that disability — but if some other circumstance aggravates or adds to that injury, the Second Injury Fund provides a supplemental benefit. Between 1988 and 1992, that fund had become an exploited goldmine for some political insiders. 

“We found that lawyers were receiving higher awards if they contributed to the Attorney General [William L.] Webster’s campaign than lawyers who did not,” Ganey said. “It was difficult to report, but it was very important for the state of Missouri. Over a million dollars in restitution was recovered from those who defrauded the fund, and [the Missouri legislature] changed the way the fund worked after that.”

Ganey's uncovering of the Missouri Second Injury Fund scandal earned him a finalist recognition for the 1993 Pulitzer Prize in investigative reporting.

These sorts of remarkable accomplishments over the span of a career are exactly why Ganey was chosen to be honored as a permanent fixture in the university’s Alumni Hall of Fame, SIUE Alumni Association President Andrew Ravanelli said. 

“We have more than 120,000 alumni of the university. The alumni we are honoring are the best of the best,” Ravanelli said. 

Ravanelli said he hopes current students are able to see someone like Ganey, who was in their same shoes once as an undergrad student, be honored and feel inspired for what their own futures could hold. 

“You don’t start out as a Pulitzer Prize nominee. You start out as a student working at your local paper. Everyone starts somewhere, and it’s so exciting to see that SIUE is a place that people who go on to do great things come from,” Ravenelli said. “Current students in the Mass Communications department have these same beginnings. This is the place where you set the foundations to go on to do great things.” 

Musonda Kapatamoyo, chair of mass communications, says the department is thrilled to see Ganey representing the department as an honoree. Kapatamoyo even personally purchased Ganey’s books and had him sign the copies at the induction ceremony. 

“We are very proud of his achievements. It's a testament to his experiences here that he has done so much. I am impressed with his career — he was an incredible reporter for a long time. I think seeing our graduates honored helps our current students see that we see them and we are here to support them,” Kapatomoyo said. 

Ganey said he feels the mass communications department and the mentorship he received from many of his professors with real-world experience taught him valuable lessons that set him up for success in the field.

“Kamil Winter was a Czechoslovakian broadcaster. When the Russians invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968, he had to go underground and, after he fled, the then-chairman of the Mass Communications department hired him as our teacher,” Ganey said. “So, here was someone who had risked his life to report on the threats to democracy that the Russians had brought to Czechoslovakia. We really looked up to him as a real hero, and now the department even still has an award named after him today. That’s who I got to have as a mentor.”

Ganey said he holds his time as an SIUE student in high regard. Now, being chosen for the Alumni Hall of Fame is a full circle moment for his career. 

“I’m very honored to have been selected. I feel very lucky and blessed to have been chosen to be among those being inducted to the Hall of Fame. I certainly don’t think of myself as being especially famous, but it is a recognition of the work I did at the Post-Dispatch and the books I have written,” Ganey said. “It’s been a wonderful trip down memory lane to come back to Edwardsville.”

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