Alumni Issue: Ken White — From broadcaster, to podcaster, and beyond

Categories:  Edinboro Alumni Issue 2019    News
Friday, October 11th, 2019 at 11:30 AM

It’s not often you walk into a college bar and see a crowd silenced. But this one was.

And they were glued to the TV.

It was there that Ken White, a 1983 Edinboro University graduate, was on the local WJET-TV sportscast. You see, White was also a bartender at the Edinboro Hotel Bar, the site of this strange scene, and that night was his professional broadcasting debut.

“It’s 11:15 on a Friday or Saturday night, and they shush the entire bar, and tune every TV in the place to Ken’s inaugural sportscast,” said Tony Peyronel, Edinboro’s executive director for entrepreneurial development and a college classmate of White’s. “It was a college bar on a weekend night, and the place went quiet as a church. I haven’t seen anything like it before or since.”

After that broadcast, White said his phone rang off the hook all night as professors and fellow students called to congratulate him on a job well done. He recalled this moment being one that gave him validation of his career path, along with serving as a lasting memory of his support system at EU.

White started in sports, as he always had a particular interest in the field.

“I love the idea of winning and having a goal to constantly aim at. When you achieve that goal, it’s an extraordinary feeling,” he explained.

While an undergraduate at Edinboro, he was a contributor to The Spectator and the main voice behind sports broadcasts on 88.9 WFSE. White’s involvement in campus media led him to that first professional position, anchoring weekend sports on WJET.

He continued on this path for most of his 20s, but eventually would return to EU to pursue his master’s degree in communication studies. White credits a large portion of his career pivot to his wife and to former professors who encouraged him.

After his master’s degree, White landed his first teaching job in journalism and public relations at Northwest Missouri State University, where he stayed for 12 years while also obtaining his doctorate at the University of Missouri. During this time, White found other ways to tap into his love of sports. He would help get Northwest Missouri into Arrowhead Stadium (the home of the Kansas City Chiefs) for a Thursday night game against Pittsburg State on Oct. 17, 2002.

“I was just some kid from Pittsburgh, and there I was negotiating with the NFL,” said White.

From there, he hit the media from all angles, resulting in a 25,000 mark for attendance and additional coverage on stations throughout the region.

White then departed for an even bigger job opportunity at the Virginia Military Institute, where he was tasked with implementing a modernized public relations initiative. At the time, VMI was more reactive than proactive in working with the media. Communications were militarily structured and needed revamped, so White stepped up to the plate.

About five months into his tenure, a unique opportunity came with a “Good Morning America” event. The longtime morning show was doing a promotion where they traveled to 50 states in 50 weeks. They would do entire broadcasts in select locations.

“We got them to come to Lexington, which was amazing considering where they could have gone in Virginia,” he said. He wouldn’t take all the credit, though, as he explained how TV producers love the “gorgeous” backdrop of VMI.

According to White, this two-hour live broadcast was the first event that showed, “the folks on grounds that we could work with media and it would be beneficial for both of us.”

TV channels like A&E and History have been there since.

“I was there for two years at VMI, and within that time, we certainly were able to work with media in a different way,” he said. He described it as a public affairs office before he arrived, while then transforming it to a two-way street.

White left VMI to lead marketing communication efforts at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. While at UVA, White was able to tap back into that love of sports, landing the job of public address announcer for Virginia Cavaliers basketball. He would announce games for seven years.

“It’s a fun production every game,” White said. “There’s nothing like telling 25,000 people to stand, and watching the crowd’s energy grow.”

White subsequently enjoyed a successful stint as an associate dean at the University of Maryland’s business school, and for the past six years has been an associate dean at the Raymond A. Mason School of Business at the College of William and Mary. There, he is still working hard trying to maintain a distinctive brand in the competitive world of business education.

In a way, he’s also returned to his broadcasting roots, hosting the successful podcast “Leadership & Business.” Noting that there are currently more people listening to podcasts than going to the movies, White says 120 episodes of the series have been posted, eclipsing more than 2 million downloads.

The podcast recently ranked 37 in the Apple Podcasts category of “Management.” This is higher than similar programs from the likes of CNBC.

Many years have passed since White was a student at Edinboro. Unpredictable job changes and success in various avenues of sports, media and education have added up to form a career that White is humbly proud of. But he never forgets that it all began in Compton Hall on the campus of EU.

“That is where I started becoming involved and taking advantage of the opportunities that were offered,” he said. “It’s important to realize that half of what you learn comes from a classroom and the other half comes from outside experience.”

Listen to an episode of “Leadership & Business.”

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