Award-Winning CNN News Producer Will Receive Honorary Degree, Speak to SUNY Potsdam Graduates at Commencement


Kathleen Friery

SUNY Potsdam alumna Kathleen Friery ’84 is set to share her firsthand knowledge of what it takes to cover breaking news from around the globe in an address to graduating seniors at the College’s 176th Bachelor’s Commencement Ceremony on Sunday, May 23.

The executive producer of “AC360°,” the nightly CNN newscast anchored by Anderson Cooper, Friery will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the State University of New York at Potsdam in recognition of her courage and commitment in delivering breaking news to millions of viewers around the world.

Friery will also deliver the keynote address to approximately 600 bachelor’s graduates, along with hundreds of their family members and friends.

“The College is proud to welcome Kathleen Friery as our Commencement speaker. In dedicating herself to covering the events that shape our world, she has shown just how far a liberal arts education can take you,” said SUNY Potsdam President Dr. John F. Schwaller. “Her tireless work has brought viewers a news program that goes behind the headlines to feature a variety of views in an honest, accurate and straightforward format.”

Friery was instrumental in coordinating a unique conversation between CNN anchor Anderson Cooper and SUNY Potsdam students recently as part of the College’s 2010 Campus Festival. Cooper spoke via videoconference to a panel of five student leaders moderated by Dr. Schwaller. The broadcast journalist discussed his experiences covering the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti, and spoke about the future of journalism and the importance for students to stay engaged on the global level.

A three-time Emmy winner, Friery is one of the driving forces behind Anderson Cooper’s newscast on CNN, “AC360°,” where she coordinates daily coverage of international and national news as an executive producer. The alumna puts in 12-hour days managing reporters and producers in the field and coordinating Anderson Cooper’s coverage, whether he is hosting in the New York City CNN studio or on location.

Friery got her start in writing as an English and political science double major at SUNY Potsdam, where synthesizing lots of information and condensing it into papers helped propel her into journalism. Additionally, she was an active participant in the College’s dance program.

After graduating from SUNY Potsdam, Friery continued her education by earning a Master’s degree in broadcast journalism from New York University. She was soon hired by ABC’s newsmagazine program, “20/20,” and later moved to the network’s “Good Morning America” broadcast, where she served for 10 years before returning to work at “20/20.” In 2002, Friery joined CNN to become Connie Chung’s senior producer.

The following year, Friery began working for a rising star in the CNN newsroom, Anderson Cooper. The fast-moving and provocative show that resulted, “AC360°,” has gained notoriety for telling in-depth stories from multiple points of view. Today, Friery is ranked among the top television news executives by Mediaite’s power index.

Under Friery’s leadership, “AC360°” has won numerous awards, including three Emmy Awards in 2006. The Emmy awards recognized the show for outstanding live coverage of a long form breaking news story for “Starving in Plain Sight,” a story that documented the plight of starving children in Niger; outstanding feature story in a regularly scheduled newscast for “Charity Hospital,” a piece that chronicled the efforts to keep hospitals operating during Hurricane Katrina; and outstanding coverage of a current business news story in a regularly scheduled newscast for “Black Market Infertility,” which followed a couple who purchased infertility drugs over the Internet because they were unable to afford the over-the-counter cost of the prescriptions.

Founded in 1816, SUNY Potsdam is a four-year liberal arts college nestled on the outskirts of the Adirondack Park. Among the 64 units of The State University of New York system, SUNY Potsdam has the longest history and currently enrolls approximately 4,350 undergraduate and graduate students. It is well known for its academically challenging liberal arts and sciences and teacher education programs, as well as its world-renowned Crane School of Music.