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UC Davis Magazine

Volume 28 · Number 1 · Fall 2010

Alumni Profiles

Mary Richardson

Occupation: Community liaison for Caritas hospitals in New England, former news anchor for WCVB-TV in Boston.

Photo: Mary Richardson

A Boston icon: Mary (Murphy) Richardson, Cred. ’69, retired from WCVB-TV last May after 30 years as reporter and anchor for the ABC affiliate. For most of those years, she co-anchored the award-winning daily newsmagazine program Chronicle, which has been syndicated nationally on the A&E Network and other cable stations, and hosted Chronicle’s popular segment, “The Main Streets & Back Roads.” Richardson said her assignments provided some of the most exhilarating experiences of her life. “There were so many things, from going to China for three weeks to traveling down an Irish river in a tugboat,” she said. “But locally, I got to see so many things in these small New England towns. Coming from California, I had never seen places that could be so remote, where people lived the same way they did 200 years ago, where dairy farmers are waking up at 4 in the morning. It was very amazing.”

From classroom to newsroom: Richardson traces the start of her TV news career to her first teaching job at Encino High School in Sacramento in the early 1970s. “I had one class where a lot of the students weren’t interested in coming to school,” said Richardson. “To get them interested, I bought a movie camera and encouraged them to write scripts so that I would film their movies. I became really interested in film and began taking classes and eventually that led me into reporting.” She got her first reporting job at KCRA-TV in Sacramento and quickly worked her way up the ranks, eventually earning a gig anchoring the 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. news. By 1978, news stations across the country were seeking Richardson’s talents. With a brother studying at MIT, she chose Boston. She worked for a CBS affiliate in the city before settling in at WCVB.

Her new calling: Just days after leaving Chronicle, she was offered a job as a community liaison with Caritas Christi Health Care, a network of six hospitals in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. “I thought I would end up taking the summer off,” Richardson said. “Yet this job ended up being offered and it was too good to pass up. It allowed me to work with the community and promote the hospital’s image. I love this job. So far, it’s been a great time.”

“To get [students interested in coming to school], I bought a movie camera and encouraged them to write scripts so that I would film their movies. I became really interested in film and began taking classes and eventually that led me into reporting.”


Don Cambou

Occupation: Television writer, producer and director whose credits include 450 episodes of the History Channel’s Modern Marvels (executive producer), 30 episodes of A&E’s Biography (executive producer), A&E’s documentary miniseries The American Revolution (writer and producer) and the pilot for the long-running CBS series, How’d They Do That? (producer and director).

photo: Don Cambou

Great television careers begin with . . . philosophy? Cambou’s did. “At UC Davis, I started out majoring in physics, but I graduated in philosophy. Believe it or not, they aren’t as different as you might think!” After getting his bachelor’s degree in 1968, Cambou took some graduate courses at California State University, Chico, where he had “a really good instructor in a basic filmmaking class. I made a five-minute animation short for that class, and entered it in some contests. It ended up doing really well, and won a bunch of awards, which led to the opportunity to make a documentary film, and that led eventually to what I’m doing now.” Cambou said his undergraduate studies prepared him well for his TV career — philosophy gave him a world perspective that made him a better storyteller, and physics was a good background for Modern Marvel’s episodes on historical technological breakthroughs.

All about stories: Cambou said his 30-year career has given him an enduring love for the process of crafting stories. “No matter how many bells and whistles you put on something, it’s really the story that is important, that people respond to — and if people are interested in it, it will be successful.”

Retirement — not an option: Last year, he wrapped his last season of Modern Marvels, ending a 12-year stint for Actuality Productions, a Hearst Entertainment affiliate behind the show. But Cambou isn’t slowing down. He’s written a young adult fantasy fiction book, completed his first draft of the sequel and is now crafting a screenplay. He’s involved in two startup companies that will teach film- and documentary-making online. He’s finally catching up with people he hasn’t seen in years due to grueling television production schedules. He’s also a father to four grown children — Amy, Catie, Suzanne and Jack — and partner to Lisa Pompelli, a well-known botanical artist. “People ask me, ‘so what are you going to do now, retire?’ I say, ‘I never want to retire!’ As you get older, you have to stay creative, and I don’t mean just by writing or being an artist. You can be creative by coaching a baseball team — or whatever it is that inspires you and satisfies you. You have to stay engaged.”

Modern Marvels is broadcast on the History Channel. You can also view full episodes online.

“I’ve always felt a responsibility — if millions of people are going to watch something, you want to try to make it as accurate and informative as you can.”

Scott Johnson

Occupation: President and founder of the nonprofit medical research organization, Myelin Repair Foundation.

Photo: Scott Johnson

Entrepreneur: Business entrepreneur Scott Johnson ’78 has been the president and CEO of three startup companies over the past 20 years, but his latest endeavor is a nonprofit. He’s working to save lives. In 2002, he founded the Myelin Repair Foundation with the goal of improving business and medical research methods for developing treatments for multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease that attacks the central nervous system. “Everyone here is really passionate about what they’re doing,” Johnson said. “We have the opportunity to change the world, and you don’t normally get that opportunity every day.” Its efforts have received praise from The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek and Businessweek. Johnson won the 2010 Northern California Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Award and the 2009 Dorothy Corwin Spirit of Life Award.

Myelin repair: The Myelin Repair Foundation is a research and development nonprofit organization that seeks to reverse the damages MS causes to myelin. “Myelin is the insulation of the nerves,” Johnson said. “When it’s damaged, it short circuits the messages from the brain to the body.” For people with MS, the effects can include numbness, vision problems, pain, tremors, fatigue, lack of coordination and memory problems.

Helping others: Johnson was diagnosed with MS in 1976 when he was still an engineering student at UC Davis. He went on to receive his M.B.A. in 1981 from UC Berkeley. “Fortunately, I wasn’t impacted as much as others who have the disease, so I was able to pursue a career in business,” he said. He hopes his foundation will help MS sufferers whose symptoms are more severe. “I was diagnosed 34 years ago. I don’t think this will have an impact on me. I’m doing this for others and I think our model for accelerating the research process and getting medicines to patients faster will be an equally important legacy of our work.”

Johnson lives with his wife, Dana Apperson Johnson ’78, in Saratoga. Their daughter, Laura, graduated from UC Davis in 2008.

“We have the opportunity to change the world, and you don’t normally get that opportunity every day.”



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