In Remembrance: James E. Duffy’49, broadcasting innovator, founder of Duffy Community Partnerships Program
Duffy was a broadcasting innovator, working in nearly every sector of radio and television and rising to become one of the industry’s top executives.
After serving in the Army Air Corps during World War II, Duffy attended Beloit on the G.I. Bill, earning a bachelor’s degree in English. He called football games and hosted a radio show on Beloit’s first FM station in the 1940s. He launched his professional broadcasting career while still a student and eventually became president of the ABC Television Network.
With Duffy at the helm from 1970 to 1985, ABC became the top-rated national network and started airing NFL games, pioneering children’s programming, and committing itself to public service.
Over his lifetime, Duffy was dedicated to many causes, including improving literacy. He used his high-profile position at ABC to champion that cause, spearheading several projects, including Project Literacy US, where he served as a national spokesperson alongside then-second lady Barbara Bush. In 2002, Duffy published his memoir, The Wind in the Trees. Eight years later, he published his first children’s book, The Adventures of Emmy and Endy & Alfie Duffy, Too!, a story about his three Jack Russell terriers.
Duffy was consistently generous to Beloit, establishing an endowed scholarship in creative writing named for his children and creating a resounding legacy through the Duffy Community Partnerships program. With its rigorous academic component anchored in sociology, the Duffy program matches students with semester-long fieldwork in the community that complements their studies. Since it launched in 1999, it has become one of Beloit’s signature offerings. Hundreds of former Duffy students are now addressing the critical problems of our time, with an initial boost from Jim Duffy.
Duffy received many honors, including broadcasting’s highest honor from the National Broadcasters Foundation of America in 1989. In 1974, the college recognized him with an honorary Doctor of Laws degree, and in 1999, he received the Distinguished Service Citation, the highest honor given by the Beloit College Alumni Association.
Survivors include his daughter, Corrine.