Journalism students Wilk and Atkins named 2011 Chick Hearn Memorial Scholarship winners

The Los Angeles Lakers announced the 2011 winners of the Chick Hearn Memorial Scholarship, which will be awarded to two USC Annenberg students at halftime of the Lakers-Golden State Warriors game on Nov. 21 at center court.

Claire Atkins and Alex Wilk, both seniors majoring in broadcast journalism, will receive a $5,000 scholarship and the opportunity to intern at Fox Sports Net. Chick’s widow, Marge Hearn, and Geneva Overholser, director of USC Annenberg’s School of Journalism, are scheduled to make the official presentation to the students during Chick Hearn Night.

“Of all the honors that Chick received, I believe he would have been most proud of this scholarship,” Marge Hearn said. “He never was able to complete his own education and he would have been very pleased that students like Claire and Alex have the help they need to pursue their dreams.”

Atkins, from Nashville, Tenn., is the first female recipient in the scholarship’s nine-year existence. She is a sports anchor at Annenberg TV News, and has interned at AEG Digital Media and in the sports department of KTLA and CBS2. She is also the host of's weekly webcast.

“To be associated with one of the greatest broadcasters of all time is really special,” Atkins said. “All of my hard work in sports at USC has culminated in this award. I feel truly honored.”

Atkins has wanted to be a sports reporter since she was 10 years old.

“While news is filled with tragedy and conflict, sports can take one away from the stresses of the real world for even just minutes a day,” Atkins wrote in her scholarship essay. “They can give hope to those who need it … I want to show why sports are so much more than scores and highlights.”

Wilk, who grew up in Los Angeles and went to local Harvard-Westlake School, is the sports director of Annenberg TV News, where he has been a video journalist, producer, reporter, anchor and most recently executive producer of the new USC-centered “Sports Extra” feature show. He has interned with and the sports department of ABC7, and was an editor of the crowd-sourced website

He is a lifelong Laker fan and recalls being at Staples Center for memorable events such as Game 4 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals, when Robert Horry made one of the most dramatic last-second shots in NBA history. But he said nothing will compare to Sunday night.

“This is something I’ve dreamed about since hearing about the scholarship years ago,” Wilk said. “I’m just so excited to have my name mentioned with Chick Hearn’s. To be able to meet Marge Hearn and be honored at this game is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I’ll never forget.”

He said Chick Hearn was an instrumental part of his childhood and that Hearn’s creative way of talking about basketball made the Lakers a part of his life.

“I never met him, but Chick Hearn was one of my favorite people in the world,” Wilk said. “I felt so close to him through his work with the Lakers. He and Vin Scully were major inspirations for me going into sports journalism because I realized how exciting being a part of the media could be.”

The Chick Hearn Memorial Scholarship was established in 2002 with support from the Hearn family, the Lakers and Chick’s many fans, in tribute to the legendary announcer. In addition to his more than 40 years with the Lakers, Hearn spent 1956-61 as the announcer for USC Trojan football and basketball games. In 1959, he was inducted into USC’s Skull and Dagger Society as the “Voice of Troy.”

To continue the legacy of Hearn, this scholarship provides talented broadcast journalism students at USC Annenberg’s School of Journalism with the opportunity to further develop their own unique voices. There have now been 13 Chick Hearn Memorial Scholarship winners from USC Annenberg.

The public may contribute to the fund to help deserving journalism students seeking careers in sports broadcasting. Donations may be sent to USC Annenberg Chick Hearn Fund, USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, 3502 Watt Way, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0281.

Video of 2010 scholarship winners interviewed on FSN