Juli Hinds has done some things. Given a long enough life, and a short enough attention span, things happen. Hinds was a pioneer, one of the first women on the radio in Madison. It was a station with an adult-contemporary format. "I guess we need a broad on mid-days," the program director said. Then there was the time when Hinds interviewed Donny Osmond for the Nashville Network. She was working as a video deejay and had gone country.
"My hair was bigger than both our heads," she said. I personally remember Hinds rushing from the kitchen at Blackhawk Country Club one winter night years ago, when she was doing good work for United Cerebral Palsy as a celebrity waitress. Juli went one way, her tray went another, and a half-dozen plates went into the air like flying saucers. Things happen.
But for this daughter of a well-known and colorful Madison family, there may have never been a bigger happening than the Monday earlier this month when she sat outside a room where the six members of her UW-Madison oral dissertation committee were discussing whether Hinds had earned her doctorate degree. It was a long 20 minutes, and then her mentor Patty Loew, who had encouraged her to go back to school, and who sat on the committee, came out and offered her hand. "Hello, Dr. Hinds," Loew said. A little later, in a classroom at Edgewood College, where Hinds teaches — a new and fulfilling career — her students cheered the news. Juli's mom, Joy Hinds, was there, too. Joy brought cupcakes. In her earliest radio days, when she worked an overnight shift, Juli would come home before dawn to the family house on Regent Street and find her mom asleep in the living room with the radio on. Joy had been listening to her daughter. "She may have been the only one," Juli said. There will be a larger audience Sunday, at the Kohl Center, when Hinds walks across the stage to get her degree. Loew will escort her. Juli's dad, Bobby Hinds, the celebrated fitness entrepreneur, figures to be fighting tears. The former boxer has a soft side. Juli's three siblings are all successful in different arenas. It's a family of large personalities. "You have to fight to be heard," Juli said. She laughed, but it's true. It shaped her. Hinds learned persuasive speech early. Radio came naturally. Reading was something else. She was dyslexic. Books were never easy, another reason the doctorate, at 51, is such a big deal.
When Hinds decided, a dozen years ago, to go back to school — encouraged by trusted friends like Loew and Tammy Baldwin, a high school classmate, Madison West, 1980 — it was a little scary. There were the old reading issues, and the fact that she had already made a name in media. Hinds is best known for her many years at Magic 98 radio in Madison — where she continues to do a "Saturday at the '70s" program once a week — but she also worked at radio stations in Milwaukee and Chicago. She did television in Nashville and features at two Madison TV stations. She'd been on the short list to work on a entertainment news show at Warner Brothers in Los Angeles. Did she really want to reinvent herself?
She did. Happy personally — Juli and John Stephenson were married in 1998, and have two daughters — she was up for a professional challenge. "I had always wanted to teach," she said. Hinds followed Loew into the Department of Life Sciences Communication. She took classes and taught herself, working as a teaching assistant. She loved the back and forth with students. Hinds earned her master's degree in 2006 and started teaching at Edgewood College, while continuing to work on her doctorate at UW-Madison. She was surprised by the "amazingly diverse community" at Edgewood, where she continues to teach courses in media and culture and radio broadcasting. Now, with the doctorate in mass communications, Hinds is talking about creating a media literacy center at Edgewood. She would like to see the college have a radio station, maybe even a film festival. It's a fine idea. Somebody could do a documentary on the Hinds family. Juli's mom would bring cupcakes to the premiere.