Lisle, Illinois ~ Kerry Andrews, a leader at one of the most iconic film and television companies in the world, knows a thing or two about tenacity and perseverance.
It is what encouraged her to wait tables on evenings and weekends and answer phones at a call center in the early morning hours before class to pay her way through school.
It is what she fell back on when she needed to find her first job in the entertainment industry.
It is what helped her overcome extreme adversity as a survivor of an assault.
And it is what has gotten her where she is today as the mother of two children and as a director of production at Disney/ABC Television Group.
“Where you come from is the foundation for your growth,” Andrews said. “It’s important to reflect on your past and your values in order to see clearly your road ahead. Benedictine is my heart and soul. Even when I am not specifically thinking about BenU, I’m still living the BenU way.”
She credits her Benedictine experience for reinforcing her values and for preparing her for a lifetime of success. She recalled one class in particular — Economics with Professor Emeritus Margaret Roth, Ph.D. — which drastically changed the course of her life.
“She saw something in me that I lacked the experience and insight to see in myself,” Andrews said. “She showed me my future by encouraging me to change my major from Mathematics to International Business and Economics. As a student, we often lack the insight into what a particular major may look like in practicality. ‘What does someone who has a degree in International Business and Economics do?’In my mind, I was going to help companies expand globally. Dr. Roth helped me to see the potential in what I was studying in a real-world way.
“Every road I’ve taken since has echoed the guidance Dr. Roth provided,” Andrews added. “As an adult, I try to reciprocate what she did for me by supporting and encouraging those around me toward success.”
During her time at BenU, she also developed a strong work ethic that she still carries with her to this day. After her freshman year, she decided to focus on working more to help pay her way through school.
“At times I held down two jobs while going to school full time,” Andrews said. “The first job I had was waiting tables at T.G.I. Friday’s in Lombard. The second was a paid internship with Platinum Technology where I worked in an international call center from 4:00-8:00 a.m. before I went to class.”
Andrews was a good student and looked forward to her classes, which she found engaging and challenging.
But that world came crashing down after she was assaulted while off campus. Traumatized by the experience, her grades began to slip. She felt broken and didn’t know what she should do.
Her math teacher, however, noticed something was wrong.
One day, she asked Andrews to follow her to the counselor’s office to get help. It was a gesture of profound empathy she would not soon forget.
“What she did for me in a moment on a single afternoon is to this day the most compassionate thing anyone has ever done for me,” Andrews said. “My life was crumbling around me and my grades were plummeting. This teacher didn’t ask me a bunch of questions. She didn’t ignore me. She didn’t judge me. She didn’t give up on me. She simply asked me to come with her.
“Today across the country, assault is still a real threat women face not only on our college campuses but throughout our society. It is despicable and unacceptable. Only by speaking out and by taking a stance against this violence can we move forward and collectively put an end to such deplorable behavior.”
After graduation, Andrews and her husband moved westward, eventually deciding to make Los Angeles their new home. Andrews did not intend to pursue a career in the entertainment industry, but a friend helped her get an interview for a job processing accounts receivable for music talent at the William Morris Agency.
Then on one eventful day, she met Bonnie Weis, who is now a producer at Warner Bros. Television.
“She said to me, ‘You need to be in production accounting,’” Andrews recalled. “The words resonated with me and reminded me of Dr. Roth’s insight into my degree. Within a week, she offered me a position on my first feature film called “Town and Country.” It was a big project that went on for what felt like forever. Even though I was an accounting clerk, she taught me payroll, accounts payable, how to budget and how to conduct myself on set. Her advice to me was to treat everyone I met just like anybody else. I’m glad she gave me this advice as my first day on set I met Goldie Hawn, Diane Keaton, Jenna Elfman, Gary Shandling and Warren Beatty.”
She then sought out other opportunities as a freelancer and went from being a clerk on a film to a controller of a small production company in one year.
“From there, I worked on whatever job I got next, often through referrals,” Andrews said. “I did payroll, accounts payable, post accounting and key accounting. I worked on features, television, music videos, commercials and reality programs. Then, when my kids were born, I decided to take five years off. I was worried I would never work again, but when my son started kindergarten I called my old contacts and within a few weeks I was back at work.”
While working for the CBS reality show “Live to Dance,” she was recommended and hired for a corporate position with Disney/ABC Television Group.
As senior manager of production and finance at Disney/ABC Television Group, Andrews was responsible for monitoring the financial status of the Disney Channel and Disney XD series, and managing multiple accounting teams on several series including “Girl Meets World,” “Kirby Buckets,” and “Liv and Maddie.”
“At the time, I didn’t see myself doing a corporate job, but I went to the interview anyway,” Andrews said. “That was more than four years ago and I can say I love working for The Walt Disney Company and my group within it. Each and every day is different. I fit in here because the values that the Walt Disney Company operates under are shared by me. In addition to the green efforts I see implemented within the company, The Walt Disney Company encourages its employees’ philanthropic endeavors. We have done beach cleanups, worked in soup kitchens and participate in Adopt-A-Family every Christmas. They also have a program that will make a donation to eligible charities based on employees’ volunteer hours. Disney doesn’t just post its green and volunteer initiatives on their website — they truly integrate these values into everything they do.”
And when she learned Disney offered a tuition reimbursement program for employees, she didn’t have to think too hard about where to go back to get her master’s degree.
“When I found this out, Benedictine was my first stop,” Andrews said. “The online program was perfect for me. I could attend school in the time I had available, which was often 2:00 a.m.-4:00 a.m. and all day on Sunday thanks to the support of my husband and children.”
Shortly after graduating with a Master of Business Administration, she accepted a position as director of production with The Walt Disney Company — a promotion she says will allow her to continue to put what she learned to good use.
“At Benedictine, I wasn’t just a speck in a sea of faces,” Andrews said. “I was cared for by those around me and I can’t imagine where I would be today without the strong role models I had at the University.”
In spring 2015, Benedictine took note of Andrews’ accomplishments and recognized her for her professional and philanthropic achievements with the University’s Rising Star Award.
Benedictine University is located in Lisle, Illinois just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has branch campuses in Springfield, Illinois and Mesa, Arizona. Founded as a Catholic university in 1887, Benedictine enrolls nearly 10,000 students in 56 undergraduate and 19 graduate programs. Forbes magazine named Benedictine among "America's Top Colleges" for the fifth consecutive year in 2015, and the University's Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) program is listed by Crain's Chicago Business as the fifth largest in the Chicago area.