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ID: Sut Jhally — UMass professor and executive director of the Media Education Foundation

  • Sut Jhally


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Sut Jhally was born in Kenya, but he grew up in England, where his family moved when he was 6. He later moved to the west coast of Canada for graduate school.

He moved to the Pioneer Valley 30 years ago to take a position at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and has  been there since.

In 1991, he created the Media Education Foundation, which has made more than 75 films. In 2002, the foundation bought and rehabbed Northampton’s old fire house on Masonic Street.

Full name: Sut Jhally

Date and place of birth: May 29, 1955, Nairobi, Kenya

Town of residence: Northampton

Job: Professor of communication at UMass, executive director of the Media Education Foundation

Who lives under the same roof as you? Just me

Children: None

Education: Bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of York in England, another master’s from the University of Victoria in Canada and a doctorate from Simon Fraser University in Canada

Hobbies: English/European football

Book you’d recommend to a friend: So many! The two that come to mind this week are “The New Jim Crow” by Michelle Alexander and “Why Marx Was Right” by Terry Eagleton 

A few favorites: Documentary — “When We Were Kings” about the Ali/Foreman boxing match in 1974 in Zaire; TV Show — “Parks and Recreation”; musicians — Bruce Springsteen, Peter Gabriel, Joni Mitchell 

Five items you can't live without: Just one – reading glasses

Last thing you purchased just for fun: Two 1970s Led Zeppelin albums

What's at the top of your bucket list? Visit more iconic soccer stadiums around the world 

Life-changing experience: I was taken to a soccer match in London when I was 9, which led to a life-time identity with Chelsea Football Club.

Strangest job you ever held: Packing KitKats into boxes at a chocolate factory 

The last thing you tweeted: The results of a study I had conducted showing that during the ”Super Bowl” telecast, the actual football takes up a tiny percentage of what people are watching. The vast majority is ads. 

Dumbest thing you ever did: Thinking that Donald Trump was such a racist and fascist buffoon, that even the modern Republican party, as mean and nasty as it is, would not embrace him. How wrong I was!

One trend you’d like to see return: Students being able to sit through a lecture without checking social media

What really sets you off? See answer to dumbest thing.

If you could spend the day with a celebrity from any time in history, who would it be? Muhammad Ali, during his political and athletic prime in the 1960s. The most graceful athlete I ever saw, with a fierce political vision that scared the hell out of white America. One of the most important figures of the 20th century. Perhaps he’d be hanging out with Malcolm X during the day we’d spend together!

Best advice you ever got: If in doubt about spending a lot of money on attending an event, imagine what you might think six months down the road if you didn’t go.

Favorite place to get a bite: Mosiac Café. Wonderful Moroccan food, outside dining in the summer, just ’round the corner from where I live. 

Favorite athlete: Dutch soccer player Johan Cruyff. He was not only one of the greatest players ever, but he essentially invented a new way to play football that is the basis for the domination of Barcelona in the modern era. He just died last month, at 68, from cancer.

What does your ideal weekend look like? Exploring a foreign city

One thing you would change about yourself: Learn to relax more

What gives you the creeps? People without compassion, who are missing the key thing about being human.

People who knew you in high school thought you were: A jock!

Whom do you most admire? Noam Chomsky for his lifetime of fearless intellectual activism

Parting shot: There is no such thing as being neutral or innocent in the world. You are either pushing for change or you are complicit with how things are.

— Compiled by Brenda Nelson

To suggest someone for ID, send an email to bnelson@gazettenet.com.