Following the death of entertainer Ed McMahon on Tuesday, Catholic University of America has issued a statement praising his “long and distinguished career” and his service to the university as a “most renowned” alumnus.
McMahon was most famous as the announcer and sidekick for Johnny Carson, host of “The Tonight Show.” He earned his bachelor’s degree in drama from Catholic University in 1949 as a World War II veteran studying under the GI Bill.
University President Msgr. David M. O’Connell said the university was “greatly saddened” by the death of McMahon, describing him as one of the school’s “most renowned alumni.”
“He took such great pride in his alma mater and rarely missed an opportunity to speak positively about his time here in various interviews and books.”
McMahon studied under Fr. Gilbert Hartke, O.P., who created the drama department at CUA. The entertainer would later lead the effort to build a theatre on campus in Fr. Hartke’s name.
“Ed was devoted to CUA's legendary Father Hartke only to follow in his footsteps to legend status. ‘I owe so much to CU,’ McMahon told me at Bob Hope's funeral a few years ago,” Father O’Connell continued. “‘That's where my career got its start.’”
McMahon was active in the CUA Alumni Association and was its national president from 1967 to 1971. In fall of 1970, he and actors Helen Hayes and Sidney Poitier attended the dedication of Hartke Theatre. In the spring 1985, which was Hartke's Jubilee, McMahon announced the establishment of the Ed McMahon Scholarship Endowment to assist CUA undergraduates aspiring to careers in broadcasting.
In April 1987, McMahon joined comedian Bob Newhart in a performance at the university’s centennial celebration. He received an honorary Doctor of Communication Arts degree from CUA in 1988.
Marion Gosney, director of alumni relations, said his celebrity status added excitement to alumni events, especially Homecoming.
“Ed helped strengthen the Alumni Association because of his big personality,” Gosney said. “He brought people together and was a loyal alumnus. He will certainly be missed.”
“The university is saddened by the loss of yet another great alumnus whose long and distinguished career bears witness to what he learned here,” Msgr. O’Connell added. “May Ed now know the peace of the Lord forever as he joins so many of his beloved CUA friends who have gone before him.”