July 9, 2020
Today, I am delighted to announce that accomplished media pioneer and Omaha native Catherine Hughes has accepted my invitation to serve on Creighton’s Board of Trustees. Hughes is founder and chairwoman of the Washington, D.C.-based Urban One, the nation’s largest distributor of radio, television, and digital programming for Black audiences.
Hughes’ connection to Creighton begins with her father, William Alfred Woods, who was the first African American to graduate with a degree in accounting from Creighton University. It was further cemented when Creighton’s legendary crusader for civil rights, the Rev. John Markoe, SJ, helped her mother attend nursing school and sponsored Cathy’s attendance at Omaha’s Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart, where she became the first Black graduate.
During the late 1960s, Hughes took liberal arts courses at Creighton and Omaha University. She ceased her studies to begin volunteering at KOWH, a newly formed radio station that found its primary audience in historically African American North Omaha. In the early 1970s, she became a lecturer in communications at Howard University and began volunteering at WHUR, the university’s radio station, where she developed the “Quiet Storm,” a format best described as late-night music chatter, which remains a dominant format to this day.
Hughes went on to form Radio One (now Urban One), at which, in 1999, she became the first Black woman to head a publicly traded company. Her media universe, which began with the purchase in 1979 of WOL-AM radio station in Washington, D.C., grew to include 71 radio stations, two television stations, and now several digital platforms, all active in virtually every major Black market.
In 1995, Hughes became the first woman owner of a No. 1-ranked major market radio station, and in 2006 Black Enterprise Magazine named her one of the 50 Most Powerful Women in business. Among her many other honors is induction into the National Association of Broadcasters Broadcasting Hall of Fame and the naming of the Cathy Hughes School of Communications at Howard University. In 2006, Creighton University conferred upon her an Honorary Doctor of Humanities.
Through the years, Hughes never lost contact with her hometown or her Catholic faith. “Omaha is my village,” she once told Omaha World-Herald columnist Mike Kelly, as she prepared to travel to the city to visit her mother. “Everyone wants to come home, and I’m thrilled to be coming back.”
We are thrilled, too, that she is “coming back,” not only to Omaha, where Paxton Boulevard, the street where she grew up, is now renamed Cathy Hughes Boulevard, but also to help guide Creighton University as we negotiate the challenges of the 21st century.
I join with our other distinguished trustees in welcoming Cathy to our Board, and I am excited about the insight, knowledge, and perspective she will provide to our University community.
Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, SJ, PhD