A trailblazing attorney, a celebrated sports journalist unafraid to ruffle feathers, a gifted storyteller and communications innovator at Vanderbilt University, an entrepreneur whose interest in media and data fueled success in business, and a sportswriter-turned-investigative producer are the latest inductees in the Vanderbilt Student Media Hall of Fame.
Selected for the 2021 class are Eileen A. Carpenter, BA’69; Henry Hecht, BA’69; Ann Marie Deer Owens, BA’76; Jay Graves, BA’93; and Pete Madden, BA’09.
The Student Media Hall of Fame was established in 2009 to honor Vanderbilt University alumni who have achieved outstanding personal or professional accomplishments and/or made distinguished and lasting contributions to their field and/or to society in general. The names of the five new inductees will be added to a permanent Hall of Fame display in Sarratt Student Center.
Eileen A. Carpenter, BA’69
Carpenter is an accomplished attorney in Baltimore whose interest in stars and astronomy led her to major in physics at Vanderbilt.
In 1965, Carpenter graduated from Nashville’s Cathedral High School and enrolled at Vanderbilt, where she volunteered to write for Rap, a publication started by Black students, and The Vanderbilt Hustler student newspaper.
“Vanderbilt integrated its undergraduate school in 1964, the year before I started,” Carpenter said. “It was a challenge for me to join extracurricular organizations because, invariably, I would be the only Black in the group. However, I enjoyed camaraderie at The Hustler, and I especially enjoyed being involved with the news of the ’60s.”
Rap gave Black students an opportunity to express their frustrations and feelings of isolation. “In Rap, we mostly poured out our hearts,” Carpenter said. “The Hustler wasn’t covering the things we wanted to cover. Most students didn’t really know what Black students were going through.”
Recruited by Westinghouse, Carpenter worked there for four years as an associate engineer. Later, unhappy with the military-industrial complex and her job, Carpenter considered law school but worried it might be boring.
“I loved it right away, from day one,” she said of the University of Maryland School of Law. “I especially enjoyed my real estate courses, which literally brought me out of the cosmos and back down to earth.
“I realized that for most people, especially Black people, their home constituted their major source of wealth. My real estate courses and my private practice taught me about restrictive covenants, redlining, predatory lending, blockbusting, reverse mortgages—all the legal machinations used to legally deprive people of their property. Being a lawyer has allowed me to help a lot of people.”
After law school, she worked for the Baltimore City Law Department in the labor law section for 18 years while managing a small real estate practice. In 1996, she retired from Baltimore City to work full time in her private practice. Carpenter has more than 30 years of experience handling various real estate matters. She has represented clients ranging from banking institutions and investors to individual buyers and sellers.
Reflecting on her time in student media, Carpenter said The Hustler gave her an interesting insight, especially when one of her articles was rejected because “it might offend some people,” she said.
“I think the title was ‘Blacks, Poor Whites and Southern Belles,’” Carpenter said. “As I listened to the explanation, I realized my colleagues and I had distinctly different experiences and points of view which had shaped our understanding of the subject matter. To this day, I try to understand a situation from the other person’s point of view before passing judgment.”
Henry Hecht, BA’69
Hecht always wanted to be a sportswriter, and he got to live the dream for 35 years.
When he arrived at Vanderbilt in 1965, he knew joining The Hustler on day one was “a must.” He served as sports editor after working on staff throughout college. He was also a contributing writer for the Dirty Weejuncampus humor magazine.
“Alumni Hall became my second home,” Hecht said of The Hustler’s location at the time. He did get out of the office senior year to cover every basketball road game, thanks to funds secured by his editor, Chuck Offenburger, BA’69, a member of the Student Media Hall of Fame.
“I can still see myself, on the phone in Knoxville and Starkville and Oxford and Baton Rouge, dictating my game stories as I met the first deadlines of my career,” Hecht said.
After graduating, he was hired as a sports clerk at the New York Post, working on the “lobster shift,” 1:30 to 8:30 am. In the “catch” of his life, he noticed a missing Knicks playoffs score minutes before deadline. Soon after, he got the opportunity to report on high school basketball and then harness racing, which he covered with creativity and audacious commentary.
“I would criticize drivers for their tactics, sometimes hinting at improprieties,” Hecht said. “I made up comic poems and new lyrics to popular songs, including ‘Magical Mystery Tour.’ Most important, in the Post’s view, I sold papers. The Post actually put me on the side of their trucks after just a few weeks. Heady times for a 23-year-old.”
In June 1974, Hecht’s dream of covering baseball for the Post was realized when he became the Yankees beat writer, and in 1983 he became one of the first national baseball writers. In 1984, he left to write the “Inside Pitch” column at Sports Illustrated.
Hecht then freelanced for The New York Times and The Washington Post, and on-air for NBC’s Sunday Today Show, among others, before joining The National sports daily as a sportswriter and columnist. His last stop in journalism was at Newsday as a sports copy editor and writer.
Since 2005, he has been a writing coach and SAT and ACT tutor. His love of teaching first surfaced at the Postand continued at Newsday, where he worked with young writers. Appreciative of editors who helped him, Hecht has sought opportunities to help others whenever possible.
“I worship the English language and enjoy tutoring as much as I enjoyed being a journalist, which makes me the luckiest of people,” Hecht said. “I’ve had two careers that I have truly loved.”
Ann Marie Deer Owens, BA’76
Owens has been telling Vanderbilt’s stories for the past 29 years through her roles in Communications and Marketing at the university. Her interest in writing and broadcasting started when she was a student here.
Owens joined several students from Saint Andrew’s School in Boca Raton, Florida, in selecting Vanderbilt, where she majored in English and joined WRVU radio’s news staff and The Hustler’s arts staff.
She recalled Shakespearean Professor Scott Colley assigning readings of renowned literary critic and alumnus Cleanth Brooks, so when Brooks visited campus, Owens volunteered to cover it for The Hustler.
“Brooks’ agent turned me down for a sit-down interview,” Owens said. “I had to wait outside the University Club and chase him as he was leaving a library-hosted dinner. This was not conducive to writing an in-depth article, but it made the paper’s front page.”
She spent three afternoons a week at WRVU, where she learned how to edit audio, write broadcast copy, curate wire stories and deliver newscasts every hour. Owens said she felt at home working in radio, and she made lifelong friends at WRVU.
“I learned you have to be persistent, and you have to really want to do it,” Owens said. “Nobody’s going to hand it to you. I think it really gave me the confidence to knock on many doors on the way to starting my career.”
After graduating, Owens worked at WMAK radio on the midnight shift, which was “awful,” she said. She moved to WKDA-KDF radio in Nashville, where she would stay for 13 years and serve as news director. In 1990, the Tennessee Associated Press Broadcasters Association named her Broadcaster of the Year.
She left broadcasting to work in the nonprofit sector before returning to Vanderbilt in 1992 as a public affairs officer. Among her many projects, Owens created radio spots, including the award-winning That’s Vanderbiltaudio feature, which was broadcast during Vanderbilt football and basketball games, and a Nashville radio talk show. She now serves as senior writer and storyteller at Vanderbilt. One highlight in her Vanderbilt career was working on a story about former Sen. Lamar Alexander, BA’62, a member of the Student Media Hall of Fame. Alexander donated his papers to Vanderbilt Special Collections, and because Owens had covered his gubernatorial campaign and administration earlier in her career, she “felt part of that time in Tennessee history.”
Owens has served on several local nonprofit boards, including Friends of the Susan Gray School, where she was board president, and the Nashville Shakespeare Festival. For VSC’s previous Student Media Hall of Fame announcements, Owens interviewed and wrote the inductees’ stories every year from 2009 to 2020.
Jay Graves, BA’93
Jay Graves successfully co-founded, grew and sold successful data-driven businesses before stepping into his current position as chief operating officer of Nashville-based marketing firm Blueprint.Inc. He credits his experiences at Vanderbilt student media for teaching him to love the written word, discover his work ethic, and marvel at real-world applications of technology.
Graves spent his first two years at Vanderbilt studying engineering before switching gears to major in political science. He worked for The Hustler and other publications as a photographer and writer during all four years of college.
It was a transformational time, when photographs were developed in the darkroom while digital photography was just starting. Graves brought in the first digital pictures his senior year, and he was there for the first newspaper layout using desktop publishing.
“We somewhat affectionately referred to ourselves as ‘tunnel rats’ since we never saw the light of day from working in the bottom of Sarratt Student Center,” he wrote in VSC’s alumni newsletter, adding that the newspaper “taught me about desktop publishing, networking, pre-press, people management and production schedules—things vital to modern marketing success.”
After graduating, Graves took a position managing political-fundraising databases. He had dabbled in database work at The Hustler, but he said he quickly discovered he had no real database experience. Even so, he learned on the job and said, “I just completely and utterly fell in love with it.”
In 1995, Graves co-founded SmartDM, which started as a direct mail agency and then grew into one of the original Software-as-a-Service providers focusing on customer database management and email marketing.
He and his partners built an email distribution system using personal computers and then took advantage of the burgeoning internet. Graves developed a system allowing sales representatives to combine sales-leads databases with ticket-sales technology for the Nashville Predators, the company’s first subscriber. Eventually, 300 sports teams were running the subscription software packages. SmartDM grew to 90 employees and was purchased by Acxiom for $22 million in 2005.
Graves later co-founded the SSB Central Intelligence platform, which was sold to Strattam Capital in 2018. He also served as a board member at community volunteer organization Hands On Nashville during a “profound period of growth,” during which he was the chief adviser for HON’s first business planning process and a multiyear organizational expansion.
Graves now runs operations for his wife Liza Graves’ (BS’94) business, StyleBlueprint.com.
“It’s a digital magazine that, upon reflection, is a lot of deadline-driven publishing that is eerily similar to my college days,” he said. “Apparently, I can’t get away from publishing.”
Pete Madden, BA’09
Pete Madden is an award-winning reporter, editor and producer for the ABC News Investigative Unit. His early interest in sports journalism evolved into a talent for investigative journalism while he was a student Vanderbilt, and he would experience a similar evolution in his professional career.
“I didn’t realize Vanderbilt had such a rich sportswriting tradition,” he said. “I liked sports, and I liked writing, so I applied to join the Hustler staff. That’s what made sense in my 18-year-old brain.”
For Madden, the behind-the-scenes access, the press box and talking to players made for an exciting experience, underscored when fellow students read his byline in the paper and asked him about his writing.
During his sophomore year, Madden joined a small group of students to pursue an investigative journalism project with VSC advisers. He said the experience showed him news is “more than what someone tells you to cover,” and he learned the basics of enterprise reporting.
“It was like an investigative team. It got you thinking, you don’t have to just wait for something to happen,” Madden said.
He was a sports editor for The Hustler and was the first sports editor for the former student media website InsideVandy.com. After graduating with a double major in communications studies and English, Madden earned an M.S. in digital media at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism in 2012.
He then worked at The Los Angeles Times and later as a senior producer at Sports Illustrated, where he covered golf, a sport he had never played or watched.
“Covering tournaments was a lot of fun, but it wasn’t hard-hitting. Then a certain golf course owner ran for president, and my stories now had national significance,” he said.
Madden co-reported the Sports Illustrated “First Golfer” feature about President Donald Trump’s global golf business. Trump called it “fake news,” but The Washington Post called it “one of the best pieces of political journalism of the Trump age.”
In April 2017, ABC News snapped him up. Madden serves as an investigative producer and has covered the Mueller investigation, sex abuse in sports, and human rights violations at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Madden led the network’s groundbreaking investigation of the NFL’s use of “race-norming” to determine eligibility for compensation to former players suffering from the lingering effects of head injuries, resulting in the league’s abandonment of the controversial practice.
Madden has twice been nominated for Emmy Awards, and his work has been cited by The Best American Sports Writing series.