Jim McKay, ’43, to be honored for work in equestrian journalism

By Rita Buettner  |  Photos courtesy of the McManus family

As a Loyola student, James McManus, ’43, served as class president, sports editor of The Greyhound, and as an assistant to legendary Athletic Director Emil G. “Lefty” Reitz.

When he graduated from Loyola, he became a reporter at The Baltimore Sun, before moving on to WMAR-TV. His television career gave him the broadcast name “Jim McKay” and took him to a CBS variety show in New York City and then to ABC where he was host of the popular “Wide World of Sports.”

Inducted into Loyola University Maryland’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2001, McKay is one of the University’s best-known alumni. He passed away in 2008, but his life and work continue to be celebrated.

This month he is being honored with the 2017 Robert and Anne Heighe Award for Excellence in Equestrian Journalism. The award was presented posthumously on Friday, Nov. 10, at Harford Community College.

In his work, McKay championed the sport of thoroughbred horse racing, covering races around the world as a journalist and founding The Maryland Million. His coverage of racing began in Baltimore in November 1947 with live reporting from Pimlico Race Course, the first live television broadcast in Baltimore. It was here that his love affair with racing began. He also covered racing in England, and from 1977-2000 he broadcast the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont for ABC.

McKay may be best-remembered, however, for his role in leading ABC’s coverage of the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, in which terrorists murdered Israeli athletes in the Olympic Village. For that work, he earned Emmy Awards for sports coverage and news reporting, the George Polk Memorial Award for Journalism, and the Officer’s Cross of the Legion of Merit from the West German Federal Republic.

Throughout his career, McKay remained a close friend of his alma mater, serving as a Trustee and, with his wife Margaret, as chair of Loyola’s leadership donor group, the John Early Society. He was awarded the Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa, degree from Loyola in 1981.

This award will be presented by the Hays-Heighe House, a public history site located at Harford Community College. The Hays-Heighe House was the centerpiece of Robert and Anne Heighe’s 225-acre Prospect Hill Farm (headquarters of their Thoroughbred breeding and racing operations) from 1921-53.

The award was accepted by McKay’s family, including his daughter Mary Guba, his son Sean McManus, and his grandson, James Fontelieu.

“The Wider World of Jim McKay” exhibit will chronicle McKay’s life from his Philadelphia childhood through his early journalism career and into his national and international work. His reporting on equestrian sports will be one of the highlights in addition to his international reporting. The exhibit will be on display in the Hays-Heighe House from Nov. 10-Jan. 12.

Guest curator of the exhibit, Maryanna Skowronski, a 1982 graduate of Loyola, is working closely with McKay’s family and friends, who are providing photos, memorabilia, and stories of his personal life and of his career.

For more information about the award or the exhibit, visit www.harford.edu/jimmckay.

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