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“Ellen DeGeneres Show” reunites Tulanians with Brees

May 25, 2016

Alicia Duplessis Jasmin

The “Ellen DeGeneres Show” introduced the world to a story of tragedy, friendship and hope featuring Class of 2007 Tulane University alumni Jackson Smith (now a Tulane Law student) and Brian McKenna in fall of 2015. After McKenna was paralyzed in a mountain biking accident in June 2015, the set of events that followed resulted in a heartwarming parable that becomes more uplifting each time DeGeneres, a native of New Orleans, reaches out for an update.

Smith (L ’18) is a graduate of Tulane’s School of Liberal Arts and a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who has devoted time to helping his friend recover, including organizing a fall fundraiser at The Boot, where both once worked. McKenna earned his degree from the A.B. Freeman School of Business. 

Not long after starting first-year law classes, Smith first visited Degeneres’ show in September, with McKenna appearing remotely from a hospital bed — and Saints quarterback Drew Brees surprising them with a Skype visit. In October, the friends reunited to show Degeneres’ audience McKenna’s progress at breathing without a ventilator.

The two recently made the trip to Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, California, for their first joint in-studio visit with DeGeneres. Grab a tissue and watch what happens when you mix a recipe with these basic ingredients: love, Ellen, Drew Brees, New Orleans and Tulane.

(A version of this story originally appeared on Tulane’s New Wave.)


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