Matt Fenlon wanted to be a sportswriter.
He wanted to be a sportswriter when he began his Springfield College journey in the fall of 2005.
He wanted to be a sportswriter even before he began his Springfield College journey.
Marty Dobrow, professor of communications, recalls receiving clips from a young Fenlon, who covered sports for his high school paper. Fenlon would send the stories to Dobrow, eager to learn of his opinion.
Matt Fenlon wanted to be a sportswriter. Matt Fenlon was going to be a sportswriter. That was that.
Or was it?
During spring of 2007, just as he was wrapping up his sophomore year on Alden Street, the communications/sports journalism major landed a 10-week internship in the late Senator Edward Kennedy’s office in Boston. “At the time, I still very much wanted to be a sportswriter but had developed an appreciation and interest in politics,” explained Fenlon.
Less than a decade later, he returned to his alma mater for a hybrid discussion of basketball and politics this past Tuesday night in the Dodge Ballroom. Now a leader in state politics as the executive director of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, Fenlon joined Alexander Wolff, Senior Writer at Sports Illustrated and author of The Audacity of Hoop, as the two discussed these often-separated topics. Having met three U.S. Presidents, Fenlon sat in the Union’s Dodge Room, dressed like a politician, donning a long, beige coat, red tie tucked under his snug scarf, and gave his insights.
Earlier that day, via email, he reflected on that summer in Boston. “At that point I decided I wanted to combine my two passions: public service and communications.”
Following the internship, Fenlon returned to Springfield and volunteered for Sen. Kennedy’s reelection campaign, along with the campaigns of Richard Neal, who was reelected to Congress, and Deval Patrick, who was elected governor. Fenlon recalls doing it all: “knocking on doors, making phone calls and holding signs.”
Fenlon also brought his political bug on campus and tried to get other students to catch it, as well. He traded his sports takes for political columns, began a Rock the Vote campaign and helped to organize a lecture series, bringing elected officials to campus. With the help of Congressman Neal, even Hillary Clinton made an appearance, holding a rally at Springfield College, as part of her 2008 presidential campaign. Though Barack Obama won America’s vote, Fenlon did win his own campaign. During his senior year, Fenlon was elected President of the Student Government Association.
Undoubtedly, Fenlon’s internship was a turning point in his life. “That was a transformative experience for him” explained Dobrow, “It was an experience that gave him a sense of what was possible.”
Following graduation, Fenlon worked in Neal’s Washington office, watching healthcare reform pass. After living in D.C. for about ten months, he returned to Springfield and, once again, campaigned for Gov. Patrick. This time, Fenlon was a staffer on the governor’s reelection campaign, responsible for organizing the Western Mass. side of the campaign. It was a lot of work, Fenlon, admits, but he “loved every second of it.”
“There were a lot of night and weekend events, but when you work for someone you believe in, you’re happy to put in as many hours as it takes to win.”
Gov. Patrick did win. With the help of Fenlon, he was reelected Governor of the Commonwealth. Fenlon stayed in Western Mass., accepting a job at Congressman Neal’s Springfield office. After networking heavily while working on the Patrick campaign, Fenlon’s time in Neal’s office proved to be even more valuable.
“For the next three years, whenever Congressman Neal had an event in Massachusetts, I was with him,” explained Fenlon. “When he was in Washington and unable to attend an event, I often represented him. My time with Congressman Neal was by far the most valuable education of my life and he’s the best mentor and teacher you could ask for.”
Fenlon said that his time with Neal served as a holistic education and was a catalyst for both his professional and personal growth.
In October 2013, after working another gubernatorial campaign, Fenlon was named to his current position where he regularly works with some of the highest elected officials.
The New Jersey native now has his own office in Boston, not far from where his political journey began during that summer internship.
“He came back from that with a tremendous passion for politics and that has carried through,” Dobrow said of Fenlon’s time with Sen. Kennedy.
Springfield College is generally not known for politics, or for launching political careers. However, while the school does not offer a political science major, Fenlon was able to hone his communication, writing and leadership skills during his four years on Alden Street – both inside, and outside, the walls of Weiser Hall.
Said Fenlon, “I’m proud to say my time at Springfield College shaped who I am today and why I’m in the position I am.”