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ESPN’s Negandhi, 2 others to receive honorary degrees

The sportscaster joins an American Jewish leader and EB Games’ founder.

For 20 minutes late last September, Kevin Negandhi had the floor in front of Temple’s football team. The team was in Hartford, Connecticut, about a half-hour drive from ESPN’s Bristol headquarters, and was scheduled to play the University of Connecticut Huskies the next day.

It was the first time he met President Theobald, the ESPN SportsCenter anchor said in a phone interview Monday. He said he was a little nervous about what Theobald would think, because he didn’t hold back.

“I don’t know how this is going to be taken,” Negandhi recalled thinking. “There was no censor button.”

Matt Rhule, who coaches the team, said he remembers the speech well.

“[Negandhi] talked about how he got to where he was, and how he stayed there,” Rhule said in a phone interview Monday. “He’s someone I know [the players] can relate to, and he can relate to them,” he added. The team won the next game, 36-10.

Negandhi, a 1998 journalism graduate, will be honored at this year’s commencement ceremony with an honorary doctorate degree along with two other recipients.

Malcolm Hoenlein, who graduated with a degree in political science in 1965, will receive an honorary doctorate of humane letters. He currently serves as executive vice chairman for the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Hoenlein was most recently in the news Sunday when he told reporters about a conversation he had with possible Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on U.S.-Israel relations.

James Joo-Jin Kim, the founder of Electronics Boutique, will receive an honorary doctorate of business. The company, later known as EB Games, started with a kiosk in 1977 at the King of Prussia Mall and grew to more than 2,000 stores before a merger with GameStop in 2005. Kim also serves as executive chairman of Amkor Technology, a semiconductor packager and tester.

When Negandhi first read the email from Theobald regarding the degree, he focused on the fact that he’d be speaking at commencement.

“I’ve always envisioned what it would be like to speak to a class at graduation,” Negandhi said. “It was this bucket-list thing for me.”

Then, his wife read the email and realized he was receiving a doctorate, too. Negandhi said because he is of Indian descent, graduate education could have been expected. But his parents were accepting of what he wanted to do.

“They never put too much pressure on me to go to med school. Maybe law school,” Negandhi said. “Still, never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d have a doctorate.”

Negandhi also served as sports editor of The Temple News in 1995-96, and worked on Temple Update, TUTV’s news show.

“It was challenging, but it was fun because it helped me understand the process,” he said of his job here. From the outset, he wanted “to establish a relationship with every program, not just football or basketball.”

One story that sticks out in his memory, he said, involves an overtime game at the Palestra between the Owls and St. Joseph’s.

“[There was] the feeling of being on deadline and making sure I was right, and made sense … I thought, ‘I can do this,’” Negandhi said. The story later won a third-place award from the Columbia School of Journalism.

Negandhi is often asked how he wound up at ESPN, usually from young journalists seeking career tips.

“My journey, I don’t know if it can be duplicated,” he said. “It’s unique to me.” After a five-internship collegiate career, he went on to Kirksville, Missouri, and Sarasota, Florida, where he covered MLB spring training, talking to greats like Ken Griffey Jr. and Derek Jeter. After some time in Philadelphia to attend to personal matters, he went back to Sarasota before landing at ESPN.

He is also a firm believer in the benefits of clean, concise writing that can come together on deadline, a skill that he honed at Temple and from Kirksville on.

“I’ve had so many highs and lows,” Negandhi said. “To anyone who goes into the TV business and travels … stay true to yourself.”

“Dream big … but have a backup plan.”

Joe Brandt can be reached at jbrandt@temple.edu.

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