School of Communications marks 20th anniversary with inaugural Hall of Fame class

October 13, 2020

Screen capture of the 8 participants

Long before Jeffrey Chernov ’74 earned his first executive producer credit, or Molly Qerim MS ‘08 hosted “First Take” on ESPN, or David Rabinowitz ‘09 held up an Oscar, they were students at Quinnipiac.

Unlike the movies or television, there are no dress rehearsals for real life, they asserted Thursday during a webinar where they shared memories of incremental jobs and exponential commitment to their work.

Indeed, it was a night to remember for the School of Communications.

To mark its 20th anniversary, the School of Communications inducted Chernov, Qerim, and Rabinowitz as the first three members of its Hall of Fame.

For President Judy Olian, the milestone represented a time to reflect as well as a call to drive positive change.

“As School of Communications alumni and students, you play a vital role in cutting through the noise, and delivering information and stories that people need,” Olian told the webinar audience. “You are charged also with lifting our souls through the art of storytelling, through narratives of tragedy and triumph of the human spirit.”

Dean Chris Roush, who arrived at Quinnipiac about 15 months ago, is well versed in the school’s history of success. He’s eager to advance that work with recent innovations, such as the graduate program in cinematic management production and the new Quinnipiac University Podcast Studio in the School of Communications.

“This anniversary is a celebration of the past, present and future of the school,” Roush said. “I’m honored to be a part of this school and honored that we have three distinguished alumni who are the first inductees into our hall of fame. They are the giants that our current students and recent alumni look up to.”

For Chernov, acting in plays at Quinnipiac exposed him to the magical storytelling of human performances. Before he worked on the 2018 blockbuster “Black Panther” and the Star Trek franchise in Hollywood, Chernov played Curley in “Of Mice and Men” in college.

“It just touched a creative side of me,” said Chernov, who was introduced by Raymond Foery, professor emeritus. “But Quinnipiac really opened my eyes to the cinema and then I started connecting with that. I honestly didn’t know what I was going to do with my life before that.”

Nearly a half-century later, Chernov is one of the most respected minds in the movie business. As a line producer, he oversees the execution of big-budget films. He’s responsible for making sure the movie finishes on time and on budget, two of the tallest orders in Hollywood.

“I’m the physical nuts and bolts of the process. I’m in charge of the mechanics of making a movie,” Chernov said. “My job is to help make the script better and tell the best story I can within the confines of a schedule and a budget. It’s hard work. To be successful, you have to earn the trust of the studio and the trust of the crew.”

The Emmy Award-winning Qerim, who has worked as a reporter, host and sports anchor, covered mixed martial arts, college sports, the NFL and more before earning the center seat on “First Take.” She was introduced Thursday by Molly Yanity, associate professor of journalism and chair of the department.

But before Qerim climbed the ladder at ESPN and CBS, she interned for Conan O’Brien and slept in a bunk bed in a New York City sublet. She quickly learned that $3,000 in savings doesn’t last long in the nation’s No. 1 media market, so she moved back to Connecticut and enrolled in the graduate journalism program at Quinnipiac.

“I truly thrived at Quinnipiac. The classes were small, and it was really personalized attention. I got to focus on my writing and that was so important,” Qerim said. “Writing is imperative in my career now. I write the show every morning for ‘First Take.’ The facilities at Quinnipiac were also exceptional. Having the ability to write your own copy and shoot your own packages and edit your own packages, I learned to do every step of the process.”

It was exactly that versatility, Qerim said, that helped her advance in network TV before landing on “First Take.” But that doesn’t make her work any less demanding.

“It’s definitely a 24-hour, 365-day job. There’s no going home from work and your day is done,” she said. “You’re constantly watching games and keeping up with the news cycle. You’re always on in that sense. It was extremely challenging my first 10 years in the business, but similar to a quarterback, the game starts to slow down a bit and you get better and better at it.”

Rabinowitz, who won an Oscar in 2019 as part of the “BlacKkKlansman” screenwriting team, was introduced by Fritz Staudmyer, assistant professor of film, television and media arts.

Rabinowitz said before any measure of success can be achieved, failure builds the foundation that it requires.

“Writing is about failing. You’re just failing all the time,” Rabinowitz said. “But you learn from your failures, and you make whatever you’re writing better and better. That was something that I learned at school.”

It’s also something he’s never forgotten.

“We were doing all these projects and a lot of them didn’t turn out as well as I wanted,” he said. “I learned to ask myself, ‘What could I have done better?’ It gradually gets better and better. You have to be OK with failure and the process. The main thing is that you’re learning from it.”

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