A role model for my female students

I told my students about Judy McGrath last week. I’ve been telling them about Ms McGrath every semester since 1999.
I first became aware of Judy McGrath in the summer of 1994. I was sitting in a rocking chair on the porch of the Inn at Cooperstown reading New Yorker magazine when I came across a lengthy article titled “Rockin’ in Shangri-la.” It was about MTV but a good deal of it was about McGrath, then creative director.
I immediately incorporated items from that article into my Introduction to Mass Communications lectures on television. The launch of MTV was significant in the history of TV.
But my lectures became more about Ms McGrath in ’99 when I found out she grew up in Scranton.
I actually met her that year at, of all places, a funeral home. I had just met the woman who would become my wife. Her uncle had passed away and she asked if I’d attend the viewing at Graziano Funeral Home in Pittston. Of course I would.
Mary Kay and her sisters kept wondering to each other if “Judy” would come. They weren’t sure but hoped she would. “Who’s this Judy?” I finally asked.
“Judy McGrath,” I was told.
“That’s interesting,” I said, “the president of MTV is named Judy McGrath.” (I had read that she was now running the place.)
“That’s her,” Mary Kay. “My cousin Judy.”
She did arrive at the funeral home and she was charming.
From then on, I mentioned Judy in class as an example that, yes, you can grow up in a little town like Scranton, or Wilkes-Barre, or Nanticoke, or Pittston, and still make it to the top. Too often … much too often … kids around here are told that cannot happen. Judy McGrath is proof that it can.
This year Judy McGrath’s story took on even more significance.
With my female students concerned about this “glass ceiling” phenomenon (of which most of them had never before heard) I offered Judy McGrath as Exhibit A. If there were ever a glass ceiling at Viacom, the parent company of MTV, she shattered it long ago.
Judy McGrath left MTV in 2011. Not sure what she is doing now but I did notice she had joined the board of Amazon a couple of years ago.
When she resigned from MTV, one of her colleagues wrote a piece under the title “24 Things You Don’t Know About Judy McGrath.” I will share just a few:
• She started as a copy writer 30 years ago when she moved from Scranton, PA.
• 30 years later she leaves a company that may be valued at $30 billion
• She is the creative beacon for the company
• She is kind
• She is a loyal friend
• She is Irish (I’d say that’s the Scranton in her)
• She knows almost every name that walks the halls (I’d say that’s the Scranton in her too)

Ed Ackerman