John W. McGreevey


Honorary Degree (1986)
Doctor of Humane Letters
Location: Bloomington
Presenter: John William Ryan
Distinguished Alumni Service Award (1973)
L.H.D., 1986; B.A., 1987


The achievement of John William McGreevey, at the forefront of his field as a writer for national television, rests on the humane values represented in his life and work. The themes in his writing over the years reflect broad knowledge and interests, and have influenced the quality of programming in the television industry.

Mr. McGreevey is among the most productive writers in television today, and at the same time one of the most talented and diverse. His early work was for the theatre. Plays that he wrote shortly after his college career at Indiana University are included in collections of American plays and continue to be performed by school, college, and community theatres in the United States and Canada. During the 1940s and early 1950s, he wrote hundreds of scripts for network radio, and was a frequent contributor to a wide range of popular radio programs. In particular, he wrote, produced, and directed over four hundred episodes of a radio series that he created called Arizona Adventure. Based on the history of the Southwest, the series was cited by educators, critics, and historians for its authenticity and value as both history and entertainment. Mr. McGreevey's interest in and concern for American Indians originated in research he did for this series. He has contributed his services as writer and producer for a documentary film about the Navajos and in support of organizations such as the Southwest Indian Federation.

John McGreevey was born at Muncie, Indiana, and studied English and theatre at Indiana University from 1938 to 1942. During his years at Bloomington, he was a part of the growth of the theatre emphasis and witnessed the creation of the University Theatre, an important advance in the University's cultural facilities. Although the majority of his work has been in television, he attributes much of his understanding of that medium to his early nurturing in theatre, and has maintained close ties with Indiana University. He generously has contributed his original manuscripts to the Lilly Library, and, as an active supporter of the Department of Theatre and Drama, has carried out a personal obligation to share with new generations of students the benefits of his experience and of the education he received here.

Mr. McGreevey's creativity and prodigious output have resulted in outstanding scripts produced by all the major television networks. Working in a spectrum of fields - drama, documentary, historical narrative, biography, adventure, suspense, and comedy - he has set the mark of his quality on American television. His voice is behind a wide range of programs of the past thirty years, including many of the dramas produced by the Armstrong Circle Theatre, Television Playhouse, Lux Video Theatre, GE Theater, and Zane Grey Theatre; comedies such as My THREE SONS and FAMILY AFFAIR, and several of the most outstanding documentaries and biographical dramas that have appeared in recent years. The latter include Helen Keller: The Miracle Continues; Roots: The Next Generations; Portrait: The Woman I Love, about the Duke and Duchess of Windsor; and Charles and Diana: A Royal Love Story, which was approved by the royal family for broadcasting in Great Britain. Mr. McGreevey's scrupulous research and sensitive approach are the basis for the excellence of documentaries such as A Man Whose Name Was John, which deals with an episode in the life of Pope John XXIII; and Judge Horton and the Scottsboro Boys, about a notorious trade union case of the 1930s. His family-oriented dramas, among which Christmas Lillies of the Field is one of the best loved, have earned him numerous awards. Among the best known of John McGreevey's scripts are those he wrote for The Waltons. This series was developed by Earl Hamner and John McGreevey at a time when there was concern in many quarters about the prevalence of violence on American television, and yet a feeling on the part of national networks that violence was what the public wanted to see. THE WALTONS shattered this myth. From the outset the honest values represented in the series had widespread appeal and initiated a renewed concern for programming that addresses the fundamental ideals of American culture.

Mr. McGreevey has received many of the most highly regarded honors in his field. For A Man Whose Name Was John he was awarded a Christopher Award, and also a Silver Dove Award at Monte Carlo, Monaco; this documentary was nominated by the Writers' Guild of America as Best Documentary of 1973. For fudge Horton and the Scottsboro Boys he received the coveted George Foster Peabody Award, a Christopher Award and Writers' Guild nomination, the Silver Gavel Award of the American Bar Association, and the Sidney Hillman Award for "outstanding contributions dealing with subjects of trade union development, race relations, civil liberties, and world peace." His scripts for The Waltons have earned him, in addition to an Emmy and the George Foster Peabody Award, the Special Award of Excellence of the national Film Advisory Board. In all he has received three Christopher Awards for works "affirming the highest values of the human spirit," an Emmy award, and numerous Emmy, Writers' Guild, and Humanitas Prize nominations. For outstanding work over the course of his career, Mr. McGreevey was honored in 1982 with the prestigious Paddy Chayefsky Laurel, the highest television award.

His longstanding support of higher education is reflected in his service on the Committee for Academic Liaison of the Writers' Guild of America. As a member of the Board of Governors of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, California Chapter, Mr. McGreevey chaired the Academy's committee to coordinate commercial television with concerns of higher education. John McGreevey is known for his helpfulness to younger artists, offering them the benefit of his long experience. He leads a life of warmth and generosity in the complex world of the television industry, a world that he has enriched through thoughtful and thought-provoking work that has always been of the highest qualify.