Mary-Ann Bendel (JOUR ’57)
Alumna Breaks Gender Barriers in Journalism
Mary-Ann Bendel was a TV and print journalist before women did such things. She broke barriers by working at CBS, USA Today and many national magazines to report news and interviews with important people. She wrote cover stories on Oprah Winfrey and Dolly Parton, Jeffrey Sachs in Poland, Romanian orphans in Romania and the Chernobyl disaster five years later, to name just a few. The Mayor of Gomel, Belarus gave Bendel a key to the city in 1993. Today, she gives back to Marquette by writing alumni profiles (check out her work on the Alumni Spotlight page) and mentoring students to become responsible journalists.
1. Why did you decide to get into journalism?
It is all I ever wanted to do. It was an interesting way to make a living and to see the world. It is not now or ever boring.
2. How difficult was it to start a journalism career in 1957?
Impossible. No woman need apply to a TV news division.
3. Then how did you get in?
Long story. Persistence and telling myself rejection is my middle name. KCBS hired me to produce “Firing Line,” a radio talk show in 1964, and I was on my way.
4. What story had the most impact?
I spend three months on the Greenpeace ship covering their environmental protests for USA TODAY and the Gannett News Service. They were trying to stop the Japanese whaling. My USA TODAY story reached President H.W. Bush the day he met with the Japanese prime minister.
5. What did you do on the Greenpeace ship during that time?
I filed daily by fax or phone to USA TODAY. I spent a lot of time just looking at Antarctica. It is pristine — to be able to be there for 3 months was a joy — even though conditions on the Gondwana were primitive by any ship standards. An ice breaker is not a cruise ship!
6. What are some of the most interesting interviews you've had over the years?
Dr. Jonas Salk, Benjamin Netanyahu, Chuck Yeager, Jacques-Yves Cousteau, Dalai Lama, Nguyen Cao Ky Duyen and Haing S. Nor. The most fun ones were with James Stewart and Zsa Zsa Gabor.
7. How has a Marquette education impacted your life?
It defined it. MU taught me to think logically before I said anything. My history teacher Rev. Gregory Huger, S.J., encouraged my desire to see the world. I have been to all seven continents.