Iconic journalist comes home to deliver commencement address May 7

April 11, 2017 | Events, News, UToday
By Kim Goodin

Toledo native Christine Brennan, award-winning national columnist, commentator and best-selling author, will present the keynote address during UT’s spring commencement ceremony Sunday, May 7, at 10 a.m. in the Glass Bowl on Main Campus.

Brennan will address 2,906 candidates for degrees: 236 doctoral, 681 master’s, 1,932 bachelor’s and 57 associate’s.

The ceremony is open to the public and can be viewed live at video.utoledo.edu.


Brennan, 58, grew up in Toledo’s Old Orchard area and Ottawa Hills during the 1960s and 1970s, when few athletic opportunities existed for girls. As a child, she often asked for sports equipment and tickets to local athletic events, including UT Rockets and Toledo Mud Hens games, pored over box scores, and listened to sports on the radio.

“It’s such an honor to be giving the commencement keynote address in the Glass Bowl, where I spent so much time as a child cheering for the undefeated Rockets,” Brennan said referring to UT’s 35-0 streak from 1969 to 1971. “I threw my heart and soul into that team, and it rewarded fans like me with victory after victory. To be coming back to a place filled with so many great memories is just a delight.”

“We’re proud to welcome a true trailblazer for women back as our commencement speaker,” UT President Sharon L. Gaber said. “When Christine entered the world of sports reporting, female journalists weren’t even allowed in men’s locker rooms. Now, 35 years later, she is one of the most respected journalists in sports reporting.”

Brennan’s appearance in the Glass Bowl during UT’s first outdoor commencement ceremony in years is poignant because she attended football games in the historic stadium with her father.

Brennan earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. A staunch advocate for female journalists in a male-oriented profession, she was the first female sports reporter for the Miami Herald. Later hired by The Washington Post, she was the first woman to cover the Washington Redskins as a staff writer for the newspaper.

She went on to cover some of the most controversial subjects in sports. Her USA Today column regarding the male-only member policy at Augusta National Golf Club in 2002 triggered a vigorous national debate. Ten years later, Brennan broke the news that Augusta had revised its policy to include women members.

Brennan also broke the story about a judging scandal in figure skating during the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah, as well as a similar judging scandal during the 2014 winter games in Sochi, Russia.

Currently, Brennan is a national columnist at USA Today and a commentator at ABC News, CNN, PBS NewsHour and National Public Radio. She has authored seven books, including the best-seller “Inside Edge,” which was named one of the top 100 sports books in history by Sports Illustrated, and “Best Seat in the House,” a 2006 memoir of her relationship with her father, and their connection through athletics.

Brennan has twice been named one of the country’s top 10 sports columnists by the Associated Press Sports Editors, and is a member of the Ohio Women’s Hall of Fame, the Washington, D.C., Sports Hall of Fame and the Medill School of Journalism (Northwestern University) Hall of Achievement. She was the first president of the Association for Women in Sports Media (AWSM), and created an AWSM program that provides internships and scholarships for women. To date, more than 140 students have benefited from that program.

Other honors include: 1993 Capital Press Women’s “Woman of Achievement”; University of North Carolina’s 2002 Reed Sarratt Distinguished Lecturer; U.S. Sports Academy’s Ronald Reagan Award in 2002; Jake Wade Award from the College Sports Information Directors of America in 2003; AWSM’s Pioneer Award in 2004 and Service Award in 2016; Women in Sports and Events’ Woman of the Year award in 2005; inaugural Women’s Sports Foundation Billie Award for Journalism in 2006; Chi Omega’s 2006 Woman of Achievement Award; Northwestern University’s Alumni Service Award in 2007; and Yale’s Kiphuth medal in 2013.

In addition, Brennan has received honorary degrees from UT and Tiffin (Ohio) University, and is a member of Northwestern University’s Board of Trustees.

UT’s spring commencement ceremony will recognize graduates from the colleges of Arts and Letters; Business and Innovation; Judith Herb College of Education; Engineering; Health and Human Services; Graduate Studies; Natural Sciences and Mathematics; Nursing; and Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences; as well as University College.

For more information, visit utoledo.edu/commencement.

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