Tuned in, toned down

Alumnus Paul Brenner stays humble despite career accolades

For someone who works in broadcast media, Paul Brenner is remarkable in part for what he doesn’t say. In 2008, when Ivy Tech Community College asked Brenner, an alumnus, if he had any advice for current students, his answer was succinct.

paul“Never stop learning, be humble, and you’ll be fine,” he said.

Brenner doesn’t just give that advice to others. He’s enjoyed considerable success, including his current position as the senior vice president and chief technology officer at Emmis Communications, a large communications firm that owns and operates radio, television, and magazine entities around the globe. He also is president of the Broadcaster Traffic Consortium, a partnership of 24 radio companies through the U.S. and Canada, and a former member of the FCC Communications Security, Reliability and Interoperability Council. Nevertheless, Brenner continues to look for opportunities to learn and remains remarkably modest.

His response to receiving a recent honor, the National Association of Broadcasters Excellence in Engineering Award, is indicative of his approach. Brenner received the award for product developments such as live traffic information through Broadcaster Traffic Consortium and TagStation song tagging for radio broadcasters. Notably, however, he considers himself just one of those deserving of credit.

“It might sound funny, but these awards are not a personal accomplishment in my mind,” says Brenner. “Many people and companies contributed to the HD Radio data services company I built. I share this award with them and embrace the notion that the NAB is using our company’s success as a motivator for industry change. I did not win the award; we won the award.”

Brenner also is quick to praise Ivy Tech for helping him get started in his career. After struggling academically in high school, he was reluctant to attend college. After receiving his diploma, Brenner spent three years working at a Christmas tree farm and party supplier. But something in him pushed him to achieve more.

“The key point in my life was realizing that self-worth is the most important thing,” he recalls. “I had to learn that value through a long, difficult process. So I went back to Ivy Tech as a 20-something year old kid. I didn’t know myself or what I was capable of.”

He soon would find out. One of his first classes was remedial math, intended to get him ready for college-level algebra. Brenner remembers feeling frustrated and embarrassed that he didn’t understand the work. Fortunately, his professors had a significant amount of faith in him.

“My math teacher was this great woman who slowed down, took the time to show me, and help me build my confidence again,” Brenner notes. “Many people at Ivy Tech took that role, and I don’t think they realize how much that meant to me and the direction they pointed me in with their efforts.”

Brenner graduated from Ivy Tech with an associate degree in electrical engineering technology and then continued on to earn a bachelor’s in e-business and master’s in information systems from the University of Phoenix. His academic achievements combined with his career success led Brenner to be named the Ivy Tech Southwest 2008 Alumnus of the Year and be asked to address the graduating class.

Not surprisingly, Brenner isn’t interested in looking back on those achievements. He’s too busy looking ahead.

“I keep my eye on what I want to achieve in life,” he says. “The five goals I wrote down for myself ten years ago were all achieved, save for one. A new list has been made. Success or failure, I will never stop trying.”

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