Distinguished Alumnus
Class of 2018

John VanGundy (Van) King

AHS Class of 1979

As an award-winning executive producer and showrunner, Van King has created hundreds of news and documentary programs for major television networks and cable channels. He is credited for his tireless work ethic, stellar creative talent and genuinely kind and honest nature in a competitive television industry, while also exhibiting a steadfast devotion to serving others.

John VanGundy “Van” King, the third child of VanGundy Grain Company co-owners John B. and Rosemary “Rodie” VanGundy King, was born February 17, 1961. He began his education at Arcola Elementary School and then graduated with the Arcola High School Class of 1979. At AHS, Van was a committed leader, who served as his class president three years. He was a Scholastic Bowl team member and consistently on the honor roll, while serving as president of National Honor Society, AFS and Drama Club. He also held offices in Spanish and Industrial Arts Clubs, served on the yearbook staff and was selected to represent his class on both Homecoming and Prom courts. Van earned honors as an Illinois State Scholar, was the American Legion award recipient and received senior class awards for both Science and Service. In 1979, he was Arcola’s first student selected to participate in the AFS Summer Abroad Program and spent the summer following his high school graduation in Argentina.

Van continued his education at the University of Illinois, where he became an active and respected campus leader. He was a U of I New Student Orientation Leader, Atius Leadership Honorary Society President and a member of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity. Van was a founding member and held various service positions in the Student Alumni Association and Greek Student Ambassadors. As a senior, he was a member of the 1982 U of I Homecoming Court and was also named the 1982-83 University of Illinois Outstanding Student of the Year.

After completing his B.S. in Marketing/Business Administration in 1983, Van jumped head first into his career in radio, television and film. While working for an ad agency in California, his account team developed the famous singing and dancing raisin characters for the California Raisin ad campaign. He relocated to New York City in 1985 to work as a writer/researcher for WABC-TV’s news operations and The Morning Show with Regis and Kathie Lee. While in New York City, Van volunteered his time to aid terminally ill, homebound residents.

Van returned to Champaign in 1986 as a reporter and news anchor at WCIA-TV, where he co-hosted the popular, nightly PM Magazine show. After three years with WCIA, Van moved to Chicago to work as a writer, producer and/or on-air correspondent at WGN-TV, as well as various TV series, including A&E’s American Justice with Bill Kurtis and CNBC’s Profiles of America. His work also included documentaries and series carried on CNBC, FNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, The Learning Channel and Discovery Channel. While in Chicago, Van opened his own production company, Televisionary, Inc., and was honored to work on three documentaries with his longtime idol, former news anchor David Brinkley. He and his company received dozens of industry awards, including a 2000 Emmy award for his documentary, World Food Economy, narrated by David Brinkley. Again, Van volunteered his service as he joined others to raise several hundred thousand dollars in donations for Chicago’s Meals on Wheels and The Chicago Architecture Foundation.

Following his 2001 move to Los Angeles, Van became the West Coast Bureau Chief and Senior Producer for FOX-TV’s long-running series America’s Most Wanted, producing 212 episodes before the series ended in 2011. Van has served as executive producer for five different true crime series for the Investigation Discovery network and A&E since 2011. He has worked for a variety of production companies in Los Angeles and New York City, including Dick Clark Productions, having recently concluded production of 57 episodes over six seasons of the highly rated true crime series Deadly Sins.

During his years in California, Van has furthered his education in broadcast journalism at the University of California, Berkeley. In his enduring commitment to service, he has served as a board member of Los Angeles’ Project Angel Food, whose volunteers are committed to feeding the terminally ill and shut-in population. Van continues his support of numerous charities and volunteers extensively in the Los Angeles area.

In addition to his Emmy award, Van’s diverse experience in the television industry has been recognized with numerous other high-profile awards, including New York Festivals Gold and Silver awards, Chicago Film Festival Gold and Silver HUGO awards and the International Television Association Philo award. He has also been honored with the Council on International Nontheatrical Events Golden Eagle, Mobius Advertising and Telly awards.

Van continues his work as a highly respected writer, editor, producer and director in the Los Angeles area. His fellow television producers and directors commend Van’s sense of humor, positive attitude, warm demeanor and ability to treat everyone with kindness and respect – the qualities that were so admired in the Arcola High School student some forty years ago.

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Last Revision September 27, 2018