Award-winning meteorologist Lelan Statom (JEM ’86) is the recipient of the UT College of Communication and Information’s 2020 Donald G. Hileman Distinguished Alumni Award, the highest alumni honor given by the college.
Statom will be honored along with five school and program alumni of the year award winners at the end of the virtual CCI Board of Visitors meeting Nov. 6 at 1:30 p.m.
In addition to his many newsroom accomplishments, Statom has made significant contributions to the University of Tennessee through his service as a charter member of the UTK Alumni Board of Directors and as a member of the CCI Board of Visitors. In 2016, he received the CCI Diversity Award.
Most of Statom’s professional career has been with NewsChannel 5 (WTVF) in Nashville, Tennessee, which he joined in 1993 as a weather anchor for the weekend morning and evening newscasts.
In 1999, he became part of the station’s No. 1-rated morning newscast, NewsChannel 5 This Morning. In 2006, he became co-host of Talk of the Town, the station’s long running and top-rated talk show.
During his time at WTVF, Statom has earned five Emmy awards for severe weather and snow coverage and for co-hosting the station’s Fourth of July special. He has been named Best Weather Anchor in the state three times by the Tennessee Associated Press. In 2019, he was named national Broadcaster of the Year by the National Weather Association.
Born in Chicago and raised in Dyersburg, Tennessee, Statom says his interest in weather dates back to seventh grade. In fact, he had his own weather center in his backyard when he was in middle school.
Statom earned a B.S. in Communications with an emphasis in news & public affairs at the University of Tennessee in 1986. He received his Certificate of Broadcast Meteorology from Mississippi State.
His TV news career started in Knoxville at WTVK-TV (now WVLT) and then at WATE. He worked as a weather anchor and served as a producer, photojournalist, tape editor, and weekend assignment editor. He also worked with Black Entertainment Television News during his time in Knoxville. In 1990, he moved to Bristol, Virginia, to become a weekend weather anchor/reporter at WCYB.
Statom says seeds for his career in broadcasting were planted in the basement of Andy Holt Tower at WUTK-FM. He joined the station’s news team in 1983 as a reporter/anchor and served as the station’s news director during his junior year. In 1986, he covered UT’s Sugar Bowl victory over Miami for WUTK and was part of the student led syndicated TV program This Week in Big Orange Country.
He was a charter member of UT’s chapter of Alpha Epsilon Rho, the honor society for student journalists in electronic media.
Readers of the Nashville Scene and The Tennessean have named him their favorite weather anchor in reader polls, and he has been voted among the best dressed men in Nashville.
He is a past Black Achiever with the YMCA and has been honored for his work on TV and in the community by the Gospel Music City Awards, the Tennessee Conference Lay Organization of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and 4-H.
Statom is an active community volunteer and serves on several boards including Cornerstone Financial Credit Union and the Middle Tennessee Boy Scouts Executive Council. He is also on the board of directors for the Tennessee 4-H Foundation.
In the past, he has served on boards for the UT-Knoxville Institute of Agriculture, TSU Cooperative Extension, and the Northwest YMCA. Former Metro Nashville Mayor Bill Purcell and the Metro Council appointed him to serve two terms on the Davidson County Agricultural Extension Committee.
Statom is a member of the National Weather Association and the American Meteorological Society. He has the TV Seal of Approval from both organizations. He is also the past president and current treasurer of the Nashville Association of Black Journalists.
“Lelan is a remarkable individual who has had a significant impact on his profession, his community and the University of Tennessee, said CCI Dean Mike Wirth. “We are grateful for his many contributions to the College of Communication and Information and our students and we are honored to present him with CCI’s highest alumni award in recognition of his many accomplishments.”
About the Donald G. Hileman Award
The Donald G. Hileman Distinguished Alumni Award is named for the first permanent dean of the College of Communications, forerunner to the College of Communication and Information. The award was established in 1994 in celebration of the college’s 25th anniversary and honors college alumni who have made notable contributions to the fields of communication and information.
Past recipients of the Hileman Award include: Nannette Baker, chief magistrate judge, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri in St. Louis; Stephen Land, founder and CEO of Jupiter Entertainment; Cathy Ackermann, president and CEO of Ackermann Public Relations and Marketing; Mark McNeely, founder and senior partner of McNeely Pigott and Fox and partner of McNeely Brockman Public Relations; Sharon Price John, CEO and president of Build-A-Bear Workshop Inc.; Charles Tombras Jr., CEO of Tombras; Alexia Poe, principal at Poe Consulting and former director of communications for Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam; Alan Wilson, McCormick & Company Inc. chairman (retired); Alan N. Greenberg, president and co-founder of Avenues the World School and former Esquire magazine publisher; John Noble Wilford, Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times science journalist (retired); and Peyton Manning, former NFL and UT quarterback.