by Pete Rosenbery
CARBONDALE, Ill. — For Southern Illinois University Carbondale photojournalism student Emily Sunblade, the news that she is the first scholarship recipient of an award in memory of a friend is bittersweet.
Sunblade is the inaugural recipient of the Ryan Rendleman Photojournalism Scholarship. The 22-year-old senior from Bolingbrook, who has a double major in photojournalism and history, will be awarded the $1,000 scholarship during the School of Journalism’s annual awards banquet Thursday, April 23, at 6 p.m., at Blue Sky Vineyards in Makanda.
More than 30 scholarships worth more $23,000, along with several recognition awards, will be presented. Members of Rendleman’s family will be present at the awards banquet.
“For me it’s very personal. I was friends with Ryan,” Sunblade said. “It’s bittersweet. It’s great to get the award but in hindsight, I wish the award didn’t exist.”
The endowed scholarship honors Rendleman, a 22-year-old senior from Batavia, who died a year ago in a traffic accident while en route to an assignment for The Daily Egyptian student newspaper. Family, friends and faculty members within the journalism school then set up the endowed scholarship through donations and fundraising efforts.
“We are honored by the scholarship endowed in Ryan’s name, and it’s things like these that have comforted us,” said Nick Rendleman, Ryan’s older brother. “We are looking forward to a new student every year being introduced to his legacy.”
The scholarship “will be a reminder every spring of Ryan and how much he meant to all of us,” said William H. Freivogel, director of the School of Journalism.
Sunblade is one of the most promising among a group of promising photojournalists within the school, Freivogel said.
“In a lot of ways she embodies what a lot of us saw in Ryan. She is active in multi-media and new media styles of reporting,” he said.
“Ryan touched the lives of many during his life, I am delighted that his influence on photojournalism students will continue through this scholarship,” said William Recktenwald, a senior lecturer and journalist-in-residence, and one of Rendleman’s instructors.
“Emily Sunblade is a talented photographer and excellent student, she was also a close friend of Ryan,” Recktenwald said. “I know that she will find a special significance in being the first recipient of this award.”
Sunblade, the daughter of Richard and Dianna Sunblade, graduates in December. With her background in history and photography, Sunblade has done some past work with the National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service. She will intern this summer with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, working in the visitor’s center, where she will create programs and brochures. The 1.92-million acre refuge is on the southwestern side of Alaska, about one hour south of Anchorage.
Sunblade has worked at The Daily Egyptian since the spring 2008 semester, where she and Rendleman became friends. She gives him credit for helping her think of a photo as more than just a picture, and recalls his ever-present optimism prior to going out on assignment.
She said she often asks herself how Rendleman would have likely approached an assignment before she leaves on a photo shoot.
“Ryan was very much about making the photo a story and not just something to fill space,” she said.
The crash occurred less than two weeks before Rendleman was to earn his bachelor’s degree. Family members accepted Rendleman’s diploma posthumously during commencement ceremonies. The family has set up a Web site in Rendleman’s memory at ryanrendleman.org/ that will be active May 24.
Last month, Rendleman was enshrined in the Newseum’s Freedom Forum Journalists Memorial in the Newseum in Washington, D.C. He is among 1,913 reporters, photographers and broadcasters who have died while reporting the news dating back to 1837, and is the first collegiate journalist from the United States on the memorial.