USA Today’s Christine Brennan to speak at Medill Convocation

Christine Brennan

Christine Brennan, USA Today sports columnist, will be the convocation speaker at Medill’s 2014 graduation ceremonies.

This year’s ceremonies, undergraduate and graduate, will be held Saturday, June 21 at Cahn Auditorium on the Northwestern University campus in Evanston. The undergraduate ceremony begins at 10 a.m., with the graduate ceremony at 2 p.m.

Brennan graduated from Northwestern with a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1980 and a master’s degree in journalism in 1981. She is an award-winning sports columnist, best-selling author and commentator for ABC News, PBS NewsHour and National Public Radio. She has covered 16 consecutive summer and winter Olympic games, starting with the 1984 Los Angeles games. Three of her seven books are on figure skating, and her 1996 best-seller, “Inside Edge,” was named one of the top 100 sports books of all-time by Sports Illustrated.

“I’ve admired Christine’s work for years, and I’m proud that she will speak to the next generation of Medill graduates,” said school dean Bradley J. Hamm. “She is a great example of the quality of Medill and Northwestern alumni in her professional work and service.”

Throughout her career, Brennan has broken through gender barriers in sports journalism. She started her career as the first female sports reporter at the Miami Herald, and later became the first woman to cover the Washington Redskins while working for the Washington Post.

“Medill was a launching pad for so many of us,” Brennan said. “My classmates and I pushed each other to be better. That’s a theme I plan to touch on in my speech: how Medill was so important not only at the beginning of our careers, but also how many of us remain connected as colleagues and friends decades later, thanks to our start at Northwestern.”

Brennan serves as a trustee of Northwestern University and has been honored with Northwestern’s Alumni Service Award. She is a member of Medill’s Hall of Achievement for its distinguished alumni.

In addition to breaking gender barriers herself, Brennan has advocated for women in sports media and in society. Her USA Today column in April 2002 on Augusta National Golf Club triggered the debate on the club’s lack of female members. Ten years later, she broke the story of Augusta’s first two female members.

Brennan was elected as the first president of the Association for Women in Sports Media (AWSM). As president of AWSM, she started a scholarship-internship program that has supported more than 130 college-age women pursuing careers in sports media.

Brennan has initiated mentoring and speed-networking events for Medill students as well as student-athletes at Northwestern. She also has started an annual summer fellowship for Medill students.

In addition to Brennan, three 2014 graduates will deliver convocation addresses:

Karen Chen, a journalism/political science double major, will be the undergraduate speaker. She was involved in Medill Watchdog, worked with a team following the story of a Nigerian refugee seeking asylum and traveled to South Africa for her journalism residency. Outside of Medill, she co-organized the Northwestern University Summit on Sustainability and was a writer in the creative non-fiction sequence. She will intern at the Washington Post this summer.

Connor Walters will speak on behalf of the graduate journalism class. Walters is a native of Bay Village, Ohio and 2013 graduate of Marietta College, where he majored in journalism. At Medill, he pursued the magazine concentration while taking classes in sports and interactive journalism. Walters is a contributing writer for Rowing Magazine. He plans a career in writing, editing and social media work at a sporting, outdoor or adventure magazines and aspires to cover the summer Olympics.

Justin Johnson, graduating with his master’s in IMC, will be the IMC student speaker. Originally from Dallas, Texas, Johnson works as a global account executive at Energy BBDO in Chicago. He is a member of the Student Advisory Council (SAC) where he served as a liaison to Medill faculty on behalf of part-time IMC students. Through the SAC, he helped to increase Chicago-based initiatives for TalentQ and Vitamin IMC, and formed Medill partnerships with the Chicago Interactive Marketing Association and the American Marketing Association. He also served as part of the Student Social Committee. 

The Medill convocation will be available for viewing on June 21, 2014 via livestream starting at 9:45 a.m. CDT, and at 1:45 p.m. CDT at