ATHENS, Ohio (WCMH) — Bobcats from near and far gathered in Athens this weekend to celebrate Ohio University homecoming. On Friday, the university honored distinguished alumni at its annual awards gala.

The highest honor, alumnus of the year, was awarded to Perry Sook, the President and CEO of NBC4’s parent company, Nexstar Media Group.

Nexstar CEO Perry Sook, right, receives his degree from Ohio University in 1980. (Courtesy Photo/Perry Sook)

Sook said the foundation for both his career and personal life started at Ohio University.

“It’s easy to say that Ohio University changed my life,” Sook said.

Sook said the journey to accepting this award has been the best part of it all.

“My wife and I, this was where we met. You know, everything we have, everything we are, Nexstar, the Sook Academic Center…  Other things that we supported,” Sook said. “None of that would have happened had we not met here in Ohio.”

Perry Sook. (Courtesy Photo/Perry Sook)

Sook graduated from Ohio University in 1980. He started Nexstar in 1996 with one local television station in Scranton, Pa. The company has since grown to be the largest local broadcasting group in America. 

Sook served on the Ohio University Foundation board of trustees for 20 years, eight of those as chair. 

That’s why fellow alumni say he is the clear choice for alumnus of the year.

“On the back of the college gate, it says, ‘so depart so that thou may serve thy self, thy country, thy fellow man, thy god better when you leave here,’ and Perry exemplifies that, I think, in everything that he does,” said Jennifer Bowie, the Executive Director of the Ohio University Alumni Association.

Sook was nominated for the award by Timothy Busch. Busch is also an Ohio University alumnus who worked alongside Sook at Nexstar. Busch most recently served as president of broadcasting.

Ohio University alumni say they want current and future bobcats to look at Sook and see what is possible.

“To have that example, that person that you cannot just look up to, but think someday that could be me. That’s the experience I could have as a graduate. That means everything to our students, and that support also means a lot to our faculty, our students and our coaches. Just to have alumni demonstrate their confidence in the things we’re doing and to give back so that we can be better,” Bowie said.

Sook said, even with the news industry constantly changing, he keeps the same outlook he had while sitting in Scripps Hall.

Watch the full interview in the video player below:

“It doesn’t change your or our basic mission of providing stories that are interesting and meaningful to our local community. Telling them what the weather is going to be like every day. You know, did the high school team win or lose? And basically, providing information that is relevant to those communities and helping local businesses grow and sell stuff, that’s our basic mission,” said Sook. 

Sook said something he takes with him in everything he does is the importance of giving back and really meaning it.

“You do the work that you do with any charity that you’re involved with, not for a reason to get your name on a wall or in a program or to be recognized at a banquet, but because you believe in what the cause is, what you’re doing, what our organization is doing,” Sook said. “I always say that if you’re able to give back and you love that part of what you’re doing, then your tailor made for this business because our job is to serve our local communities.”

Sook said some of his greatest memories at Ohio University are hosting a TV show and, of course, meeting his future wife.

He said he and his family will keep doing all they can to better the place that helped build him. 

View footage of Sook being honored during the Saturday game in the video player below: