John Kennedy, Award-Winning Communicator, Named Vice Chancellor for University Relations at UMass Amherst

AMHERST, Mass. - John Kennedy, an award-winning ABC News television producer now serving as deputy director of communications at the American Civil Liberties Union, has been named vice chancellor for university relations at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Kennedy, a 1986 UMass Amherst graduate, spent more than two decades at ABC News, covering a wide range of news stories, both domestically and internationally, for 20/20, PrimeTime Live, World News Tonight and Good Morning America. He joined the ACLU in 2007, where he is currently responsible for the operation of a 22-member department located in New York and Washington, which handles media relations, Internet and legislative communications, marketing and publications.

At UMass Amherst, Kennedy will direct the campus’s marketing, branding and communications efforts. He will oversee units responsible for communications and marketing, news and media relations and external relations and university events. He was appointed to the post by Chancellor Robert C. Holub following a national search. Kennedy will assume his new post on Dec. 27.

"This hire is crucial for continuing and improving our efforts to keep UMass Amherst in front of opinion leaders, especially in the Boston area," said Holub. "John is a seasoned media expert who has operated at the highest levels of news reporting nationally, and his experience and insight will propel the university forward. He brings both his expertise and his love for the university to the position."

"I’m looking forward to returning to UMass to help tell the story of New England’s premier public research institution," said Kennedy. "It’s a privilege to join the leadership of such an accomplished university and to have the opportunity to contribute to the advancement of an institution that prepared me so well for success in life."

Kennedy initially joined the ACLU three years ago as director of media relations, where he led an eight-member department dedicated to advancing the organization’s agenda through strategic use of media. He was promoted to deputy director of communications in September 2009. During his tenure, he played a key role in the ACLU’s advocacy on many high-profile issues and court cases, ranging from immigration to national security policy.

Prior to his career in public relations, Kennedy worked his way up from the New York headquarters of ABC News to become one of the network’s most respected journalists. Kennedy received two Emmy Awards, among his many honors.

From 2002-07, Kennedy served as a producer for ABC News in New York, where he wrote and produced television news magazine stories, including hard news and in-depth features, for 20/20 and Primetime Live. He covered the Iraq war from both Kuwait and Iraq and produced an Emmy-nominated documentary, Brothers in Arms: The Untold Story of One Marine Company in Iraq. He also co-produced Diane Sawyer’s interview with President George W. Bush following the capture of Saddam Hussein.

From 1994 to 2002, Kennedy was based in Washington as a producer with World News Tonight and Good Morning America. His duties included managing foreign and domestic news stories from field locations and overseeing budget and personnel for long-term news coverage from remote locations. He produced the first network prime time interview with President George W. Bush from the president’s ranch in Crawford, Texas, Emmy-winning coverage of the turn of millennium from New Zealand and Emmy-winning coverage of the Kosovo refugee crisis.