Balancing his career as a TV news reporter with his studies in the Carroll Graduate School of Management may be tough, says Sean Hennessey '87, "but you’ll never hear any complaints from me." (Photo by Rose Lincoln)
Hennessey, a second-year MBA candidate, is co-anchor of WHDH-TV's "7 News Today in New England," and hosts the station's local news segments shown hourly during NBC's popular "Today" show. When he finishes his 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. weekday broadcast shift at Channel 7, he exchanges his news script for his corporate finance and investment textbooks and heads to BC for a full day of academics.
So, why would a young TV anchor on an upward career trajectory choose to sweat through college exams and papers all over again? Two years ago, Hennessey says, he concluded that however good things were for him at present, he needed to have options for the future.
"TV news has been very good to me. I've had some success and I'm blessed to be where I am. But there was a part of me that was saying, 'You may not want to do this for the rest of your life. You may want to do something else.' I wanted to be prepared for the future.
"It's been a tough balance," Hennessey said of his parallel careers of full-time MBA student and early-morning TV newsman. "It has been a lot of work, especially last year as a first-year student.
"But you'll never hear any complaints from me. I've been able to do both, and that's really a blessing."
"Doing both" as Hennessey succinctly puts it, involves a 2 a.m. wakeup call each day, followed by a jog around his North End neighborhood before heading to the WHDH studios.
"I've always started my day with a run. It gets my day off to a good start," he said. "It's a way to energize. I would rather sleep for five hours and get a run in than six hours and not get a run in."
He has done enough early morning training - to the bewilderment and amusement of Big Dig construction crews and late night revelers - to prepare him to run in this month's Boston Marathon for an 11th time.
Next in his pre-dawn routine, Hennessey heads to the Channel 7 newsroom where he checks in each day by 4 a.m. and goes on the air at 5. He anchors the station's two-hour news show and then handles the five minute local news segments throughout the "Today" broadcast.
Then it's time to hit the books. "Last year some of my classes started at 8:30 a.m. and at the time I wasn't driving to campus," Hennessey said. "I'd get off the set and out the door by 7:15 and it was at least an hour to get to BC by train.
"This year, my earliest class isn't until 1 p.m.," he said, "so there isn't as much pressure. Last year was definitely tougher than this year, as far as schedule."
Hennessey likes to be in the Fulton Hall library by 10 each morning to prepare for the day's academic work. Classes and group work sessions follow. "Usually, I'm back home by 8 p.m.," he said, "except for Wednesday, which is my hardest day. I don't get home until 10."
Hennessey, who graduated from BC with a degree in English, has enjoyed steady success in his career as a broadcaster. After a year taking communication courses at Emerson College, he landed his first TV job as a volunteer sportscaster on Cape Cod CableVision.
Nine months later, he was hired for his first salaried job in the industry, doing radio sports in Lynchburg, Va. "That's when I got the news bug," he recalled. "I felt that news had a little more variety. I figured when I was 40 years old I may not care about what the Celtics did last night, but I was going to care about the president's budget or the economy."
Hennessey scored his first television opportunity at WCAU-TV in Sioux City, Iowa, where he did his own videotaping and editing along with writing and on-air reporting. From there, he moved to increasingly bigger markets in Roanoke, Va., Charlotte, NC, Columbus, Ohio, and Providence before joining the WHDH staff in 1996 as a reporter and weekend anchor.
Making the transition to full-time student in a challenging academic program was not easy, Hennessey confides. "For me the learning curve was very steep, especially some of the classes like Financial Statement Analysis, Corporate Finance and Managerial Accounting - courses I really hadn't had before.
"It just took a lot of effort for me to 'get' it," said Hennessey, who expresses gratitude to WHDH for allowing him to pursue the MBA. "There were some really good friends in the program who were really able to help me. Study groups are like a savior - not just for me but for a lot of students."
Hennessey's effort to work his way back into academia has not gone unnoticed. Carroll School Associate Dean for Graduate Programs Robert Taggart said, "Many of our full time MBA students continue to work at their internship jobs for maybe 15-20 hours a week during their second year in the program, but Sean is truly unusual in handling a demanding job during both his first and second years in the program while attending school full time.
"His juggling ability is even more amazing when you realize that he has also found time to train for and participate in the Boston Marathon," Taggart said.
Hennessey's classmates are unaffected by his on-air status, he says. "All my classmates know what I do," he noted. "We have a directory that lists every student in the MBA program and what their last job was. I don't tell people what I do. I just try to be like everyone else. I'm happy to be a student. That's why I'm here."
Hennessey says he plans to stay in the broadcast industry after receiving his degree in May, but feels that having an MBA will open new doors in his future. "I've been in TV news for 11 or 12 years and I think that at some point down the road I'm going to want to do something else and I wanted to be prepared for that.
"I'd like to get into a small business where you have a big say in how things operate," Hennessey said. "For so long, I've been telling stories about other people that there's going to come a time when I am going to want to create my own story."
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