TV success preempts college degree… until now

As a junior in high school nearly 50 years ago, Tom McCarey couldn’t have known that getting a part-time, entry-level position in the production department at WBAY-TV would be the start of a long and distinguished broadcasting career.

By the time he retired from WBAY two years ago, he had been a television news journalist for more than 40 years and a news director for more than three decades.

More often than not during his tenure, his station (Channel 2) drew strong ratings and favorable reviews for its news programming. For McCarey, however, one bit of work had gone unfinished.
“During that time I managed to complete about two years of higher education,” he says, “but as my life and career became more demanding, I had to put my pursuit of an undergraduate degree on the back burner.”

After retirement, that all changed. McCarey will cross the stage at UW-Green Bay commencement Saturday, Dec. 19, with his diploma and a “check” to one of his lifelong goals.
McCarey says his return to higher education was a bit daunting, at first.

“It was somewhat intimidating,” he recalls. “After so much time removed from an academic setting, I was very unsure if I could meet course expectations and do the work… I was in a very different environment. I went from managing a news operation of 50 journalists to being just another undergrad hoping to meet the challenge of coursework and the professor’s expectations.”

McCarey now considers his degree one of the most rewarding accomplishments of his life. He says his experience at UW-Green Bay couldn’t have gone any better.

“The professors here are truly gifted,” McCarey says. “I have learned so much from them and they’ve been so helpful and encouraging. My classmates, all 40-plus years younger than me, have been terrific. Despite our generational differences, we all share a desire to learn.”

McCarey has taken 60 credits since his return with his degree in Integrative Leadership Studies with a self-directed emphasis on U.S. Government and History, through UW-Green Bay’s Adult Degree Program.

“After spending most of my adult life covering news events, I wanted to know more about the reasons behind the news,” he says. “So much of broadcast journalism is immediate with little time for reflection and context. Returning to school would give me the opportunity to better understand how the past impacts the present.”

McCarey, who gave up time with family and vacations to meet his end goal is excited to be able to say, “Mission Accomplished.”

— Reporting by Marketing and University Communication intern Emily Schuh

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