WMU News

Hickey, Perricone to receive honorary degrees

Oct. 8, 1999

KALAMAZOO -- Western Michigan University will grant honorary doctor of public service degrees this coming December to two alumni, James Paul Hickey, a veteran ABC Network News correspondent and anchor, and Charles Perricone, speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives.

The degrees, approved Oct. 7 by the WMU Board of Trustees, will be bestowed during WMU's Dec. 11 commencement ceremonies in recognition of Hickey's distinguished career in journalism and Perricone's contributions to the people of Michigan.

Hickey is currently a New York-based correspondent for ABC. In addition, he is the morning "drive time" anchor for the Entertainment Network of ABC News Radio and also broadcasts "ABC News Notebook for Kids" on Radio Disney, the only daily radio newscast designed specifically for young children.

He began his broadcasting career at WIDR, WMU's student-run radio station. He received a bachelor of arts degree in speech and political science from WMU in 1969 and, while still in college, worked at WKZO Radio/TV in Kalamazoo. After graduating, he served from 1970 to 1972 as the U.S. Army's radio and television information officer at Ft. Benning, Ga., attaining the rank of lieutenant. During the next several years, he served in a variety of capacities for television stations in Georgia and Pennsylvania.

In 1980, Hickey joined ABC as a Chicago-based correspondent. Two years later, he began nearly a decade of work oversees as a foreign correspondent, earning news bureau postings in Frankfurt, West Germany, (1982-1985); Johannesburg, South Africa, (1985-1989), where he also was bureau chief; and Rome (1989-91).

Over the years, Hickey has covered a wide range of momentous events, such as the dismantling of apartheid, the fall of the Soviet Union, the Gulf War, the World Trade Center bombing, President Clinton's impeachment and trial, and Pope John Paul II's visit to Cuba.

Hickey has won numerous awards for his radio and television work, including two Edward R. Murrow awards, an Emmy nomination and a United Nations bronze medal.

Perricone, who resides in Kalamazoo Township, was selected by Michigan's House Republican Caucus this past November to serve as speaker for 1999-2000 legislative session. He is the fifth Kalamazoo County lawmaker to become speaker of the state House of Representatives.

The three-term legislator was first elected to the Michigan House of Representatives in 1994. He represents the 61st district and, prior to being selected speaker, served as assistant Republican leader in the House. Due to the state's term-limits law, he will leave the House in 2000.

Perricone became interested in politics as a teenager. He watched the Watergate hearings on television and voraciously read political stories in the local newspaper. He went on to work on the re-election campaigns of two veteran Allegan County officials and in 1981, while studying at Kalamazoo College, interned full time at no salary with Rep. Bela Kennedy, one of Michigan's few Republican lawmakers at the time.

In 1983, Perricone married and began a family. From then until 1989, he worked full time at the Plainwell Paper Co., where he served for a while as a union steward. In his limited spare time, he participated in local politics and community affairs as well as took business classes at WMU.

He graduated from WMU in 1989 with a bachelor of business administration degree in accountancy. During the next several years, he worked as a tax accountant for Price Waterhouse in Battle Creek, a staff/tax accountant with Plante & Moran in Kalamazoo, and an insurance agent with companies in Otsego and Kalamazoo.

However, Perricone kept a hand in politics, volunteering for the Kalamazoo Republican Party, of which he is a former treasurer; serving on the Kalamazoo Township Planning Commission, serving as president of the Westwood Community Association in Kalamazoo, and unsuccessfully running for a seat on the Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners. In addition, he developed a local Cable Access television show "Politics and You," in which he interviewed elected Republican officials from around the state.

His many legislative accomplishments include maintaining a 100 percent legislative attendance record and writing several bills that have become law. Perricone also has received a number of awards, among them being named "Champion of Commerce" by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and "Guardian of Small Business" by the National Federation of Independent Business.

Media contact: Jeanne Baron, 616 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

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