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Meet the Grad Who's Keeping the Family Tradition

Brian McMahon's a third-generation graduate from the University of Cincinnati.

Date: 6/5/2006 8:00:00 AM
By: Abigail Otting
Phone: (513) 556-2683
Other Contact: Dawn Fuller
Other Contact Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Lisa Ventre
UC ingot When College-Conservatory of Music Electronic Media senior Brian McMahon makes his way down the Commencement aisle on June 10 his family will be there to cheer him on—and to celebrate their decades-long relationship with the University of Cincinnati. His family’s connection to UC spans 58 years, includes at least a dozen degrees and is marked by an ebullience for learning and a commitment to teaching.

McMahon is part of the third generation of his family to attend UC. His father, mother, grandfather and grandmother all completed their degrees at various colleges within the university and all four have pursued careers in education. His mother, Jennifer McMahon, and her mother, Sylvia Winterhalter, are teachers in Cincinnati Public Schools. His father, Russell McMahon, and grandfather, Charles Winterhalter, both teach at UC’s College of Applied Science. His sister Molly enters the College of Design, Art, Architecture, and Planning this fall.

While McMahon’s career path is taking him into a different direction from his parents and grandparents, he is definitely appreciative of the experiences afforded to him through his studies at CCM. The internships he completed for his BFA in Electronic Media gave him access to some of Hollywood’s most well known soundstages and took him backstage to participate in the inner-workings of New York City’s late-night television world. His internship in Los Angeles came to him through the Electronic Media Division’s Ziv Scholarship Awards, which place students in media outlets and provide stipends to help them with the expenses of living in another city.

“The Ziv Award allows funding for internships that students might not otherwise be able to afford,” McMahon says. “I was fortunate enough that I had the opportunity to go to two places: New York and L.A.”

McMahon spent the summer of 2005 in Los Angeles at Paramount Studios, working as the only intern in their video services division and gaining access to sound stages and sets that most of us only see as a polished package on television and movie screens. Not only did he observe the behind-the-scenes workings of programs such as Entertainment Tonight and The Insider, but he saw first-hand the taping of one of 2006’s biggest summer blockbusters: Mission Impossible III.

After his summer in Hollywood, McMahon pursued internship opportunities in Manhattan for the Fall Quarter, landing a plum assignment at NBC’s Late Night with Conan O’Brien. Although he was one intern among many at the show, the job provided him with a host of experiences ranging from the typical—typing up the jokes for the show’s tapings—to the peculiar.

“For Rosie O’Donnell’s appearance, I had to search Manhattan for 210 Israeli chocolate bars,” McMahon says. “She wanted to distribute them to the studio audience.”

Brian McMahon

Among McMahon’s fondest memories on campus are the various projects he worked on with fellow students. These were opportunities where students from CCM’s different divisions (e.g., musicians, actors, composers) came together to share a creative experience, often staying overnight in computer labs and the Bartlett Television Production center to get the job done.

“Working on projects like the 48 Hour Film Project fostered a real bond,” McMahon says. “The program at CCM is so much more diverse than just the exposure to film production, and the opportunities to work with artistically talented people on side projects created a unique collaborative environment.”

This summer, McMahon is traveling to Munich for a study-abroad program with CCM’s e-media division. He will return to Cincinnati to find work in the fall, but his plans for the future definitely involve an eventual move to New York City.

“L.A. provided such fast exposure to so many different types of productions and people from different backgrounds, but I liked the activity and liveliness of New York—there is always something going on, whether in the arts or sports,” he says.

McMahon’s mother, Jennifer, is an advocate for the educational experiences the university has provided her family. A Hearing Impaired Intervention Specialist at Clifton Elementary in Cincinnati, she earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from UC. She says that she was always aware of the plethora of opportunites that the university provides via extracurricular clubs and organizations and the distinguished coop program, but she is even more impressed after seeing the opportunities that have been afforded Brian.

“I didn’t appreciate what a gem the university was until I came to CCM and met people from all over the world who were coming here,” she says. “The experience was phenomenal.”

She credits that experience with helping Brian grow his interest in film studies into a career in the media arts, with confidence gained from the classroom and workplace training he received at CCM and during his internships.

“He comes across as an authority in his area,” Jennifer McMahon says. “I couldn’t be more proud. Every fine quality he has, UC has expanded on.”

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