Emmy Award-winning journalist Justin Kenny will deliver the Marya McLaughlin Lecture at his alma mater, Marymount University, at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 19 in Reinsch Auditorium on the school’s main campus, 2807 North Glebe Road.
Kenny, who earned his bachelor’s degree in mass media communications and English in 1996, earned two Emmy Awards while working as the foreign and defense editor for the “NewsHour” on PBS, a post he held from 2012 to 2015. He recently launched his own production company, Small Footprint Films, in Washington, D.C., and remains a “NewsHour” contributor.
“Marymount University allowed me to do so many things beyond my wildest dreams,” Kenny said. “I would not be anywhere near where I am today if I didn’t have the opportunity to attend Marymount.”
The Rhode Island native chose Marymount because of its proximity to the capital and because it is a small, liberal arts school.
“I was passionate about what I wanted to do but I was also pretty shy, and my professors helped bring me along,” Kenny said. “I really benefited from Marymount’s family environment.”
He was mentored by former professor Paul Byers, whose extensive TV career included work as deputy foreign editor for CBS in New York and Asian bureau chief in Hong Kong.
“Having access to someone like that, who could impart his knowledge and interact with me, was invaluable,” Kenny said. “That support continued even after I graduated.”
He described another professor, Dr. Janet Fallon, as being “super supportive, like a beloved aunt.”
Fallon, a professor of communication and media design, attributes Kenny’s success to his drive.
“He was a serious-minded young man who was very intense about pursuing a career in broadcast journalism,” Fallon said. “All of the qualities he shows as a professional he was already demonstrating as a student: the right work ethic and values and being self-motivated and self-disciplined.”
At Marymount, Kenny was sports editor of the student newspaper, The Banner, and covered sports for The University Reporter, which covered all the D.C. area schools. The summer after his sophomore year, he accepted an unpaid internship at the “MacNeil/Lehrer Report.” Throughout his junior year, he interned with the Washington bureau of ITN, which creates news and multimedia content for customers around the globe. As a senior he interned at ITN’s London headquarters.
“Nobody handed him anything,” Fallon said. “Everything that he’s achieved, he has achieved through hard work. He came down here from Rhode Island and didn’t know anybody and created a network for himself in the D.C. area. Once people saw his work ethic and motivation, they wanted him in their organization. That’s why he’s climbed the ladder.”
“Nobody is going to come beat on your door,” he said. “You have to beat on theirs and that’s just what Justin did.”
After graduating, Kenny freelanced for WJLA-ABC in Washington and Fox News in Washington and New York before spending 15 years with Reuters Television, first as a producer and later as editor overseeing North American Coverage.
Kenny won a Peabody Award for “Desperate Journey,” his series on the European refugee crisis. One of his Emmy Awards was for Outstanding Business and Economic Reporting for “Who’s behind the Chinese takeover of the world’s biggest pork producer?” The other was for Outstanding Investigative Journalism for “Hazardous Work: Diving into the Philippines’ Dangerous Underwater Mines.”
His work has ranged from stories on fighting ISIS to the Syrian civil war, nuclear negotiations with Iran, Nelson Mandela’s death and the Paris terror attacks.
Bridget Murphy, associate provost for academic affairs, said Kenny exemplifies the Marymount liberal arts tradition and its promotion of career and lifelong learning.
“The industry changes constantly, and he’s on the cutting edge,” Murphy said. “He’s obviously doing very meaningful, quality work and has had the drive to start his own small business.”
The endowed lecture at Marymount honors the late Marya McLaughlin, who was a well-known CBS News radio and television correspondent, and provides students, faculty and the public insights and inspiration from journalists of national stature. Past lecturers have included Mark Shields, a syndicated columnist and political analyst for “NewsHour”; the late Helen Thomas, a legendary White House correspondent; and Bob Schieffer, who was chief Washington Correspondent for CBS News and moderator of “Face the Nation.”
Byers, who was a colleague of McLaughlin’s at CBS and helped establish the lecture, said it was doubly sweet having a former student return to Marymount to give the talk.
“I’m very proud of him,” Byers said. “It’s a teacher’s dream to have a student achieve so much success, and I expect even more great things from Justin in the future.”
Justin Kenny, who graduated from Marymount University in 1996, is shown at the 2015 Emmy Awards.