By Kathy McGee Burns
Michael A. Colleran is the president and general manager of Viacom’s duopoly, KYW-TV (CBS) and CWPhilly (WPSG-TV). He is a delightful man, full of great passion and dedication. Colleran will receive the special honorary award given by the Delaware Valley Irish Hall of Fame on Sunday, Nov. 18.
Michael was born in Scranton, Pa., and a product of many years of Jesuit influence. He attended Scranton Prep and graduated from the University of Scranton with a bachelor of arts degree in political science. The University of Scranton has a credo which says, “We will cherish you and challenge you.” They provided Michael with strong leadership skills. They taught him to give back to the community. They challenged him to think differently. All of this will seem obviously successful by the time I finish this story.
For many years every Monday night, he visited his mentor, Francis Xavier Elsinghorst, S.J., and they shared many thought-provoking conversations. Michael began his broadcasting career at WWDL-FM while in school.
Michael Colleran is a Mayo man. His parents were Mildred Lawler and James Gervais Colleran. The Colleran clans were originally coal miners. The older children in the family worked the mines in order to educate the younger ones. In Michael’s family, his dad was an attorney, two other uncles were a doctor and a banker and a fourth was killed in a mine accident.
He told me a wonderful story of his great uncle, Col. Henry Vincent Ryan, an Army Red Cross doctor. In the twenties, he was decorated for valor in 27 countries. He died in Persia (Iran) where they buried him, enshrined with pomp and circumstance. William Jennings Bryan had to intercede for the family to bring Ryan back to the United States, where he received a state burial.
Michael Colleran knew at a very young age that he was Irish. Scranton was sharply divided by the parish system. You went to either the Irish, Italian, Polish or Slavic Catholic Church. The biggest holiday after Christmas and Thanksgiving was St. Patrick’s Day.
Philadelphia was not new to Colleran. He had served as KYW’s general sales manager in the early ’90s. This time something was different. This time he was surprised and overwhelmed to behold the Irish community. He said, “It warmed the cockles of my heart.”
He thinks the cultural persuasion of the Philadelphia Irish can be seen and felt in their music, dance, song and lilt. When he first laid eyes on the Irish Center he fell in love with the interchange between the children and the adults. He experienced a rapturous look at life through Irish eyes.
As president of CBS in Philadelphia, one of his first tasks was to produce the St. Patrick’s Day parade. He needed to evaluate the sponsorship of that parade from a business perspective. When he saw how special the people were and how wonderful the event was, he made a decision to make the business part work. To Colleran, the parade is not a one-day event; it is a year-round partnership with the Irish community. Interestingly enough, one of the first members of the parade committee that he dealt with was Michael J. Bradley, president and parade director. Bradley will also be an honoree.
Michael Colleran also has a love affair with Philadelphia. He believes that it is truly “America’s next best city.” He says that his stations aspire to being more than entertainers and news deliverers, they want to be an advocate for a greater Philadelphia…a place to live and raise children.
Colleran came to Philadelphia to energize KYW and CWPhilly. These stations and his directions in broadcasting are now the “talk of the town” in terms of technology, tenor and presentation. It’s simply the best in TV.
In October, Michael Colleran went to New York to receive the Edward R. Murrow Award for the best newscast in the nation. He received it from none other than Anderson Cooper. This year they won 23 Emmys between the two stations. Michael is proudest that those tributes were not only for news but also for community service.
Michael Colleran has two adult children. Jennifer, a University of Pennsylvania graduate who lives in Wayne, Pa. She is an executive with Traffic.com. Son Michael lives in Iowa City with his wife, Erica , who is doing an internship in dermatology at the University of Iowa. He is also Jesuit educated, Boston College and a masters from University of Virginia. He teaches physics and coaches wrestling.
And so we see, Michael Colleran lives the lessons of the Jesuits. He has given back to the community, his city and mostly to us, the Philadelphia Irish. He has spent his career challenging himself and luckily, we have received the fruits of that challenge.