Communication grad carries on family’s Ph.D. legacy

Emilie Lucchesi

Emilie Le Beau Lucchesi will be the fourth in her family to receive a doctorate from UIC. Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin


When Emilie Le Beau Lucchesi graduates Dec. 11, she’ll stand out in the line of classmates receiving the Ph.D. in communication.

Instead of the traditional red gown, Lucchesi will wear the black robe her grandfather wore at his UIC graduation in 1952.

“I have looked forward to this for years,” Lucchesi said.

Lucchesi’s family has a long legacy at UIC. She will be the fourth to earn a doctorate from UIC when she participates in the Graduate College ceremony at the UIC Pavilion.

Her grandfather, Leon Le Beau, received his master’s and doctorate degrees in microbiology from UIC. He spent his career here as a faculty member in pathology, microbiology and biomedical visualization. He was awarded emeritus status in 1985, then served as associate dean of international programs from 1988 until his retirement in 1992. He died in 2004.

Student will graduate in the the robe worn by her grandfather

Lucchesi will wear the robe worn by her grandfather (second from left).

“When I was a little girl, he used to take me to campus with him,” Lucchesi said. “That’s a major reason that UIC seemed so natural for me. I have vivid memories of being around his laboratory with him, in his office and getting bribed for good behavior in the cafeteria. It means a lot to me to carry on this tradition. He would have been very proud of his legacy.”

Her aunt, Michelle Le Beau, earned a Ph.D. in pathology and genetics from UIC in 1981. She is professor of medicine and director of the University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Her uncle, Glen Cotton, received his doctorate in occupational therapy in 2013. He is an adjunct clinical instructor in occupational therapy in the College of Applied Health Sciences.

“Glen and I did our GRE classes together at UIC,” she said. “We prepped for our admissions together.”

Lucchesi, who received a bachelor’s in journalism from the University of Missouri and a master’s in communication at DePaul, was a freelance journalist before joining UIC’s communication doctoral program. “I didn’t want to stop my schooling,” she said. “UIC was the best choice for me because of its emphasis on technology.”

Lucchesi plans to write long-form journalism and historical nonfiction books after graduation.

Her blog post, “Is fat stigma making us miserable?,” appeared in the Nov. 11 New York Times. She recently sold a historical nonfiction book to Chicago Review Press. The book focuses on Sabella Nitti, an Italian-American Chicagoan wrongly convicted of killing her husband in 1923.

“Getting my degree at UIC has made me a much different journalist and historical researcher,” she said. “I feel like my Ph.D. training is just kicking in.”

Lucchesi lives in Oak Park with her husband, Michael, and two dogs, Mia, a Chihuahua, and Daisy, a toy fox terrier. Her husband will also graduate Dec. 11 — with an MBA from the University of Chicago.

“My family will come with me to UIC and his parents will go to his MBA ceremony and then we will come back to our house for a big celebration,” she said. “It’s going to be a really great day.”


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