Campus News

CBS Entertainment exec recalls time at UW-Madison in festive homecoming week speech

Kelly Kahl, now the president of CBS Entertainment, gave this year’s Red Talk, a homecoming week tradition.

Image By: Cameron Lane-Flehinger

It is no secret that UW-Madison has educated some famous and successful alumni: Frank Lloyd Wright, Charles Lindbergh and Tammy Baldwin, just to name a few. When he graduated in 1989, Kelly Kahl had no idea he’d go on to win the Distinguished Alumni award and have his name on the Notable Alumni List.

Kahl, now the president of CBS Entertainment, gave this year’s Red Talk, a homecoming week tradition. From Burlington to Madison and finally to Hollywood, Kahl told students and community members he never would have even dreamed of all that he has achieved in his nearly 30 years of working in television.

“In my mind, I’m just a goofy, incredibly lucky kid who has won the lottery several times,” he said.

The first time he won the lottery, he said, was when he was able to attend the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“What is that alchemy that leads to producing so many truly noteworthy and trailblazing alumni? What is that magic?” he asked the group of past and present Badgers.

Kahl said he believes the connections, people and place create the perfect storm to a successful school with successful students. Through being a Badger, he said, students do not just learn textbook material and academics, but they also form crucial communication skills.

“Unless you spend four years here being locked in your room, you can’t leave here without some ability to effectively communicate with others,” he said.

Kahl summed up the culture of UW-Madison for many students:

“Wisconsin is the all-nighters, it’s going to class when it’s five below in January … it’s showing up to take an exam on Friday when you closed the bar Thursday night. And then kicking ass on it,” Kahl said. “Going to Wisconsin means something.” 

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