ESPN Media Specialist
2013 Alumni Achievement Award Winner
"Knox empowers students to stand on their own, to expand their horizons,"
said Geoff Ziegler, who has seen nothing but expanded horizons since his graduation from Knox in 2003. With a freshly printed chemistry degree in hand and a few important contacts penciled in his address book, Ziegler secured several interviews with ESPN right after graduation. Now, he works as a media specialist for the television company, witnessing and developing coverage for everything from Wimbledon to the World Series.
"ESPN as a company is never satisfied with the status quo," said Ziegler. "It is always seeking new ways to make content available to the average sports fan."
Take 2007, for instance, when Ziegler helped ESPN invent new ways to cover NASCAR races after the association took a five year hiatus from television. Ziegler and his team's innovations were so groundbreaking that he received a 2008 Sports Emmy, and his technical inventions have been mimicked on other networks. "The expectations are high," said Ziegler of his work. "The hours can be long, but the rewards make it worthwhile."
Knox Magazine: Describe your Knox experience.
Geoff Ziegler: Knox was actually the first college I visited in high school. I distinctly remember sitting in on an American history class, as well as meeting with Coach Knosher. I don't know if being first made it a "meant-to-be" situation for me, but it seems to have worked out just fine! I would like to think my Knox experience was not unlike many of the College's current, former, and future students. Knox afforded me opportunities that I would not have been able to experience at a larger school: an opportunity to write for the student newspaper and be editor-in-chief of The Knox Student my junior year; an opportunity to continue playing baseball and, ultimately, become captain my senior year; an opportunity to be a Flunk Day Friar and enjoy that day's atmosphere to the fullest extent; an opportunity to become a member of the Galesburg community; an opportunity to arrive at a school in a small, rural Midwestern town and leave four years later ready to face the challenges of the world head-on. All of the above experiences occurred outside of the classroom, so I was able to do all this in addition to interacting with fantastic professors and receiving a world-class education.
KM: How has that experience affected your life?
GZ: First and foremost, the Knox experience affected me in the most personal of ways, as I met my wife at Knox, Joy (Thiel) Ziegler, Class of 2001. The friendships I established while at Knox continue to be strong to this day, even as we find ourselves spread out all across the country. From a more real-life angle, I believe I'm the perfect example of someone who benefited from a liberal arts educational approach, an approach which Knox has worked on perfecting over 175 years. Knox empowers their students to stand on their own, to expand their horizons, to always ask questions and be open to the answers you find, regardless of whether you believe they are right or wrong. ESPN is a company full of people who excel at their jobs, which can prove difficult at moments when attempting to get your point across when time is of the essence or you're at a disadvantage. Taking lessons I acquired at Knox -- having a solid knowledge base, doing the proper research on a given topic, being able to work well independently and as part of a team -- has helped garner me the respect of many of my colleagues to do the right thing in such moments.
KM: What do you believe is your most notable achievement?
GZ: At this point in my life, short of the experience of being a father to two fantastic kids, receiving a Sports Emmy in 2008 for the technical role I played with ESPN's NASCAR coverage was a definite highlight. The company was looking to make a big splash with NASCAR returning to its television airwaves for the first time in five years, and they were pulling out all the stops from a technical and innovative broadcast standpoint. Many of the technical items that we tried for the first time during that season have since been copied by Fox and Turner Sports, so I think it holds true that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Well, that and an Emmy!
KM: What will you do to celebrate your Alumni Achievement Award?
GZ: I'm looking forward to enjoying the weekend in Galesburg. It will have been just over three years since I've been back to Knox, and Joy hasn't been back since 2008. After catching up with members of the Knox community and taking in all that has changed (as well as everything that has stayed the same!), I think we're planning our own "Taste of Galesburg" trek, including La Gondola, Jalisco's, and the Landmark. No way I'm leaving town without some pesto packin' chicken linguini! I'm also looking forward to spending time with our friends and family who will be in town for the weekend; living as far away as we do from both our families, we definitely try to take advantage of any opportunity we get to visit closer to home.
KM: What words of advice would you offer to current Knox students?
GZ: Take advantage of your time at Knox. Get involved. Enjoy the opportunities with which you are presented. Knox is a truly unique place, given its location, its diversity, and its history. Having been away for almost 10 years, I still wholeheartedly believe the experiences and opportunities presented to the student body at Knox are second-to-none. And when you graduate, don't forget the College. There are many people both in the foreground, as well as behind the scenes, who work tirelessly to make the school and its community what it is. One way of saying thanks is to remain engaged with the College even after you leave. I think this is an important part which President Taylor did a great job of re-emphasizing during his tenure, and President Amott has picked up where he left off.