Erin Owen is an enthusiastic supporter of the Mavericks—the academic and athletic symbol of the University of Nebraska at Omaha where she now serves as executive director of the Office of University Communications.
The word “maverick” also means an independent thinker. That description fits Owen.
And she has always worked for mavericks—such as her first boss, then-U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey. She first met him at neighborhood block parties in the Cathedral neighborhood of Omaha where she grew up.
Being hired as a receptionist in Kerrey’s Washington office in 1994 was her big break. During her six years there, she moved up to assistant communications director and creator-producer of the senator’s cable show.
“Bob Kerrey is a maverick because he is an innovative thinker. He has the ability to be frank,” Owen says. “He had the courage to speak out and be honest with his observations.”
Kerrey says: “Whatever capacity and courage I have to think independently and acquire a reputation of being a maverick was enabled by other mavericks like Erin.”
Owen, while still in high school, entered the political sphere as an unpaid volunteer for Kerrey’s 1988 senate campaign. She has never seen age—or anything, for that matter—as a hurdle that can’t be overcome. “I don’t see barriers when I’m trying to accomplish something; if there is a will, there is a way. And I won’t stop trying.”
Her next boss was Tim Russert, bureau chief of NBC’s Washington bureau and moderator of NBC’s Meet the Press before his death in 2008. She became the show’s producer.
“Tim was the quintessential maverick,” Owen says. “He didn’t think in a conventional way. He was a lawyer with a critical mind. Tim was able to take the most complicated topic and boil it down so everyone understood.”
Her five years producing Meet the Press, the longest-running news show in television history, came during an exciting time in history. She remembers the presidential election coverage in 2000 when the race between Al Gore and George W. Bush came down to a handful of votes.
“Tim and Tom Brokaw never got up from the anchor desk for 11 hours. It was one of the most exhilarating nights of my life.”
Owen and her husband, Rob, returned to Omaha from Washington, D.C., in 2009 after their daughter, Ava, was born.
She grew up in a family of mavericks. “My dad (writer and journalist Jim Fogarty) has always been an independent thinker, and he has encouraged independent thinking.”
She describes her husband as a “quiet maverick.” Rob Owen is general counsel for the La Vista laboratory-products company Streck.
Her passion is to share with UNO students what being a Maverick means.
She cites the university’s marketing mantra: “We are independent thinkers. Explorers. Risk takers. We are willing to go against the grain; ask the hard questions; and look at challenges in a different way. We collaborate. We serve. We represent. We grow. We are doing things that people said would never happen. We are loud. We are proud. We are Mavericks!”
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