Andrea Kremer is no stranger to being the first.
The first female producer/director/writer/editor at NFL Films. The first female correspondent for ESPN. The first full-time female NFL game analyst for Amazon Prime Video’s Thursday Night Football, making up the first all-female booth along with colleague Hannah Storm.
With all these firsts – and so many other achievements – in the field of journalism, she added a few more firsts in the academic sphere at Dean College’s Commencement Ceremony this past Saturday: her first honorary doctorate, a Doctor of Humane Letters, for her extraordinary achievements in the field of broadcast journalism and as a teacher, mentor and trailblazer. Her first time delivering a commencement address. And, along with fellow recipients Marty Walsh, executive director of the NHL Players Association, and “The Last of Us” actress Rutina Wesley, the first honorary degrees ever awarded by the College.
“I’ve achieved many firsts in my Hall of Fame career, but to be the recipient of this honorary degree is a first in the academic arena and is especially humbling to me,” said Kremer. “And as the Commencement speaker, I take it as quite the responsibility, because this is one of the biggest days not just of these graduates’ lives, but in the lives of all the people that helped them get there.”
Her journey toward all these firsts is one that started out similar to the graduates she addressed – sitting at Commencement, not even imagining the career she would have built nearly 40 years later.
“When I graduated college, there really weren’t any Andrea Kremers out there,” she said. “Now, maybe there are going to be some people in the audience that may think ‘I want to do what she does,’ but when I was sitting in that audience, there was nobody I could look to. It wasn’t a possibility for me.”
In fact, her original plan was to attend law school after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania - a chapter that lasted only one year before realizing it was not for her. After taking a leave of absence, she then started dancing ballet in companies in New York and Philadelphia, before winding up back home in Pennsylvania, freelancing dance and theatre reviews for a suburban newspaper.
“I told them I liked sports, so every now and then they’d throw me a bone and I’d write a sports story,” Kremer reminisced. “After about six months, I was offered the job as sports editor, but the managing editor was clear: this was a 24/7 job. I cut my hair, put away my pointe shoes and stopped dancing cold turkey. And I launched my career in sports journalism, which took off like a rocket, and I have never looked back. Some doors started to open, and I kicked the rest down.”
Since that time, Kremer’s career has exploded. In 1989, she embarked on an extended run as ESPN’s first female correspondent, then moved on to be a sideline reporter for NBC’s Sunday Night Football, to cover the 2010 Winter Olympics in Beijing and to become a correspondent for HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.” Kremer also helped launch “We Need to Talk,” the first all-female nationally televised weekly sports show, in 2014. She became the first full-time female NFL game analyst, partnering with Hannah Storm to form the first female commentating team for Amazon Prime Video’s Thursday Night Football package.
She’s worked more than 25 Super Bowls, covered the NBA Finals and All-Star Games, Major League Baseball's All-Star Game and League Championship Series, college football bowl games, Stanley Cup Playoffs and Finals, NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, U.S. Olympic basketball trials, and the PGA Championship. In 2018, she was honored by the Pro Football Hall of Fame as the recipient of the Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award, which recognizes “long-time exceptional contributions to radio and television in professional football.”
Throughout all these monumental moments in sports, Kremer has covered both the good and the bad, and is keenly aware of the the responsibility that comes with both.
“I’ve always said that I’ve had the privilege and the pressure of covering the two greatest Michaels in sports – Michael Jordan and Michael Phelps,” said Kremer. “But for all of Jordan’s six championships, I was also there during the gambling allegations. I was with Michael Phelps in London, where not only did he lose the first race of his career, but he came in fourth. You’ve got to be there for the good and the bad, and it’s not always easy, but that’s part of the job.”
In 2008, Kremer was poolside for Michael Phelps’ historic gold medal run in the Beijing Olympics, where he earned an unprecedented eight gold medals. Six months later, she was on the sidelines of Super Bowl XLIII, when the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Arizona Cardinals with a game-winning touchdown by Santonio Holmes.
“I had a six-month stretch that some people don’t have in their entire career,” Kremer said. These two moments changed her entire perspective.
“I get asked a lot, what would I tell my younger self or what do I regret? And I have a very specific answer: I did not allow myself to enjoy aspects of the journey,” Kremer said. “Part of it is the nature of my business: it’s always asking what’s next, and never appreciating what you’ve accomplished.
“I have a moment in time when I realized this, and it started to change my approach. It was the morning I woke up in Beijing, when Michael Phelps was going for his eighth gold medal. I remember sitting in my hotel room thinking, ‘Wow. He’s going to make history today, and I’m going to be this tiny piece of that. He’s going to come out of the pool and come right over to talk to me, and I better look around the pool and take it all in.’ It didn’t affect my objectivity or my professionalism, but I took it all in. That was a very, very important personal moment for me.”
Of all the accomplishments in her career, however, Kremer says that being a mom is what she is most proud of.
“No award, no honor, nothing comes close to being a mom,” she said.
It’s a perspective she shares closely with the families of the Class of 2023, her son having graduated from college just last year. And it’s a point she drove home as commencement speaker. When the graduates found out that Kremer would be delivering the keynote address, she asked them via video to reflect on the people that have been with them on their journeys. And at Commencement, she reminded them of the role their friends and family members have played to get them here today.
“In sports, you hear players talk about representing the name on the back of their jerseys,” Kremer said. “Well, you all are representing the names on your degree. Today is about celebrating the journey that you’ve experienced with those most important in your lives.”
She also aimed to leave the Class of 2023 with “lessons learned” – the stories and wisdom she has garnered over her Hall of Fame career that she hopes will resonate with them either now or down the road. Kremer, who is also a lecturer at Boston University’s College of Communication, recognizes the importance of sharing her advice and experiences with the younger generations.
“Teaching is my institutional way of giving back,” she explained. “I tell the students on the first day of class: I don’t profess to know everything. But after all these decades in the business, I know something, and I’m going to try and share as much as I can with you because I never had anybody that did it with me.”
Her “lessons learned” spanned the practical, like hard work and perseverance, to the heartfelt, like pursuing your passions. But it all came down to the one thing Kremer wished the Class of 2023 most in life: happiness.
“Happiness comes in many different forms and different configurations,” she concluded. “I hope that school has prepared you to find what happiness means for you and that you’ll know it when you see it.”
Watch Kremer's full speech below.
Written by Abby Riviello.