The Scene

Tom Skilling, Jerry Rose at Fox Valley Arts Hall of Fame gala

ESO’s Isabella Lippi, late TV bandleader Bobby Rosengarden also in spotlight

Fox Valley Arts Hall of Fame vice president of selection Susan Starrett (from left), inductees Isabella Lippi, Jerry Rose, Sue Johnson on behalf of the late Bobby Rosengarden, Tom Skilling and gala host and former inductee Jim Gibson.

From television studios to concert halls, the four celebrity inductees of the Fox Valley Arts Hall of Fame Class of 2024 were incredibly young when they discovered their talents and grabbed their dreams. At an April 19 gala for the inductees at Villa Olivia in Bartlett, the audience celebrated Elgin Symphony Orchestra’s concertmaster Isabella Lippi; Christian television producer and broadcaster Jerry Rose; newly retired WGN meteorologist Thomas “Tom” Skilling III; and late bandleader and drummer Robert “Bobby” Rosengarden, who performed with everybody from Billie Holiday, Quincy Jones and Miles Davis to Barbra Streisand, Jimi Hendrix, Igor Stravinsky and Tony Bennett.

The recent solar eclipse briefly drew Skilling out of retirement after working 57 years in his field. According to family lore, he quipped that his childhood fascination with weather could be attributed to coming home from the Pittsburgh hospital after his birth during an ice storm. His family moved to Aurora when his father was hired by the Henry Pratt Company in 1965.

“We realized we were home, truly home,” he said of the Midwest experience.

He attended West Aurora High School and recalls being class speaker in 1970, standing next to “superstar John Drury,” who would later become a broadcast colleague.

Host of the awards gala was Skilling’s friend and fellow classmate at West High, Jim Gibson, who would go on to become an Emmy winner and FVAHF 2014 inductee and board member. Gibson resides in Sugar Grove. Skilling said both of them look forward to new and fun challenges still to come.

In looking back, Skilling remarked he was lucky not to be present at the late 1970 bombing of the physics building at the University of Wisconsin - Madison, which he attended. He said the terrorism was a protest against military research that ended in the death of a father of four.

Skilling said the Madison campus was the birthplace of satellite meteorology, critical to computer models that saw forecasting change from an art form to a science.

Known for his in-depth weather analysis, Skilling recalled having to convince “news consultants [who] underestimated the intelligence of viewers.”

Because he so obviously enjoyed what he was explaining, the audience was willing to go along for the ride, Skilling said. Indeed, thousands would show up for his weather seminars held for 38 years at Fermilab in Batavia.

He counts himself fortunate to have witnessed more progress in forecasting in the last 50 years than since Aristotle wrote his “Meteorology” treatise circa 340 B.C. He suggests staying tuned for breakthroughs next year by Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont.

Humor is a hallmark for Skilling. When radio personality Steve Dahl dubbed him Tommy Skillethead, Skilling took it in stride, glad of reaching potential new audience members.

Expressing his “heartfelt thank you” for the night’s award, Skilling drew laughter quoting Dana Carvey during his “Saturday Night Live” era: “I’m not worthy.”

Susan Starrett of North Aurora, who chairs selections for the FVAHF, introduced violinist Isabella Lippi, noting she began performing in public at age 10, when she made her debut with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, just one in a long string of accolades for her virtuosic playing.

“I’m honored and thrilled to be part of the wonderful awards … that recognize arts of all kinds here in the Fox Valley,” Lippi said.

Upcoming performance

Music lovers can catch her next appearance in the Elgin Symphony Orchestra’s concert featuring Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, with vocal soloists and chorale, May 4 and 5 at The Hemmens Cultural Center in Elgin. To learn more, visit

Jerry Rose, as a teen, already knew his career would be in Christian broadcasting. He felt drawn to television and ministry.

In the mid-1970s, he was recruited to help develop the fledgling Channel 38 television station, whose state-of-the-art studio then was located in Aurora. He noted it was a show hosted by Gibson that earned Rose his first of more than 30 Emmy Awards in 61 years of broadcasting. After retiring in November, he is now board chairman emeritus of global Total Living Network Media, and lives in Phoenix.

Rose said he’s humbled to be among the FVAHF inductees whose lives have changed the world.

Accepting the night’s posthumous award was Sue Johnson of Elgin, a friend of Rosengarden, who met him through Congregation Kneseth Israel in Elgin, which he helped support among philanthropies including music scholarships.

Rosengarden began playing drums at age 4. She said neighbors would complain when the young Rosengarden practiced drums in his home with the windows open. Once fame struck, they were quick to claim knowing him. Rosengarden returned to Elgin over the years for fundraising, including a performance with violinist Itzhak Perlman. He was famous as the wisecracking bandleader on “The Dick Cavett Show,” and worked on other programs with the likes of Ernie Kovacs and Steve Allen.

The Maud Powell String Quartet plays at the Fox Valley Arts Hall of Fame gala on April 19 2024. It's part of the Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra Chamber Music Institute. It's long been supported by FVAHF board member Joyce Dlugopolski of Geneva, formerly of Batavia, and her late husband, Ed. Maud Powell was in the first class of inductees.
Huntley Brown entertains at Fox Valley Arts Hall of Fame gala. In back is operatic tenor Frank Martorana.
Photo credit: James Harvey Photography / April 19 2024.  Prior classes Fox Valley Arts Hall of Fame members: (l to r) Jim Gibson, Betty Brown for Floyd Brown, Huntley Brown, Edward Cook, Bobbie Brown, George Shipperley and Joseph Hernandez

To learn more about the award criteria, visit

Renee Tomell

Renee Tomell

Covering the arts and entertainment scene in northern Illinois, with a focus on the Fox River Valley.