Marajen Stevick, 1912-2002
Marajen Stevick was born September 12, 1912, the only child of Helen Mary Taylor and David William Stevick. In 1915, the twenty-year-old D.W.S. moved his young family to Champaign to purchase the Champaign News. Three years later he purchased the rival Gazette and merged the newspapers to form the Champaign News-Gazette in December 1919. The Stevick family media empire continued to grow over the years to include radio stations WDWS, WHMS, and, for a time, part ownership in television station WCIA.
D.W.S. firmly believed in maintaining the company as a family-owned and operated business. Helen was the corporate Vice President and Marajen the Secretary-Treasurer. It was David’s desire that Marajen take over the family business one day and to that end, Marajen took an active role in management just eighteen months before her father’s untimely death on December 15, 1935, at age 48. Helen assumed control and ran the company until her death in 1967. Marajen continued to honor her father’s desire that the company remain family owned and operated. She resisted offers to sell the paper and radio stations, retaining control of operations until her own death in 2002.
In 1952, Marajen met Michael Chinigo, the Rome Bureau Chief of the International News Service (INS). The two were married the following year. Chinigo, an Italian, was a credited war hero who aided allied troops at the invasion of Sicily. Together they purchased a mountain top 12th century, former monastery overlooking the Amalfi Coast in Italy. Torre di Civita (Tower of Civilization) became their beloved second home. From here, they entertained celebrity guests, friends from Champaign, and world leaders. Together they managed the operations of the News-Gazette from their remote and breathtaking home that also served as the inspiration for Marajen’s paintings.
Mrs. Chinigo was a philanthropist. The National Academy of the Arts, the University of Illinois, and the Champaign County Humane Society are among the local organizations that benefited from her donations.
She was inducted as a Laureate of The Lincoln Academy of Illinois in 1992.
“The gardens surrounding Torre di Civita have inspired some of Mrs. Chinigo’s most memorable paintings. Her art is the art of someone who looks with great interest at life around her. Mrs. Chinigo trained herself by looking at nature, working with the colors given to her. That’s what makes it so special.”
Maarten van de Guchte, Krannert Art Museum Director
The News-Gazette. Thursday 4 September 1997, page B-1
Photograph of Marajen by Allen Cook, 1986, printed on canvas.
2020-014-049 Stevick Family/Champaign News-Gazette Collection