Wednesday, May 4, 2016
O’Brien is a broadcast journalist, news anchor, documentarian, executive producer and philanthropist who has become a fixture in global news.
Maria de la Soledad Teresa O’Brien was raised in St. James, New York, a community only a few miles from the Stony Brook Campus. She and her five siblings all attended Harvard University. Soon after O’Brien graduated, she began her reporting career in Boston. In 1991, she joined NBC News, and by 1997, she was anchoring programs such as Weekend Today. In 2003, she joined CNN, where she distinguished herself by reporting from the scene of such stories as the London terrorism attacks in 2005, Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the Japan earthquake and tsunami in 2011.
In 2011, O’Brien won her first Emmy Award for “Crisis in Haiti.” She was also a member of the teams that earned CNN a George Foster Peabody award for coverage of the British oil petroleum spill and of Katrina. She has also received accolades for her recent noteworthy documentaries, including Black in America: The New Promised Land; Beyond Bravery: The Women of 9/11; and Unwelcome: The Muslims Next Door.
After witnessing the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina, O’Brien and her husband, Brad Raymond, began privately awarding scholarships to young women who lacked essential resources to succeed. As their efforts grew, they formed the Starfish Foundation to expand their reach. Today, the foundation provides scholarships to disadvantaged young women in underserved communities. To date, they have provided support to 28 young women.
O’Brien’s ties to Stony Brook University run deep. Her father, Edward O’Brien, is an Emeritus Professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering; he has been on the faculty since 1961. She has participated in the School of Journalism’s “My Life As…” series, discussing her life as a CNN Anchor, and in 2015 she brought her Black in America tour, which focused on key issues facing minority communities today, to campus.