Alumni Spotlight: Lonnie Quinn '85
June 18, 2014
Written by Reid Oslin
When millions of New Yorkers want to know the weather forecast, they turn to former Boston College swimmer Lonnie Quinn '85, the Emmy Award-winning chief meteorologist on WCBS-TV in New York.
Quinn, who spent his four years at the Heights accumulating records in the pool, is now the expert on cumulus clouds - any every other aspect of the ever-changing Northeast weather - for the nation's top television market.
The personable former Eagle has also appeared on the CBS national broadcast, The Early Show on Saturday Morning, predicting weather trends for viewers across the country.
Quinn's path from the Flynn Recreation Complex pool to the bright lights of a television studio has been an interesting one, but he says he never would have achieved his current level of success without his Boston College training - and in particular, the values imparted by BC head swimming and diving coach Tom Groden.
"I actually started at BC a semester late," he says, "and I was worried that people had already started making their friendships. But Coach Groden so embraced me and brought me in as part of the program that BC truly became my `home' for the next four years."
The early-80s was a great era for Boston College athletics: Quinn's classmate Doug Flutie won college football's Heisman Trophy; another classmate, Michael Adams, led the basketball Eagles to the NCAA Tournament's "Elite Eight"; and the BC hockey team advanced to the NCAA "Frozen Four."
"BC's men's swimming program at that time was certainly competitive," recalls Quinn, who served as team captain as a senior, set individual records in the 100- and 200-yard backstroke events, and swam a key leg for the medley relay unit. "But, we were by no means a national powerhouse. At times we got our Speedos handed to us," he says with a laugh.
"I would rather feel good about myself as a person and lose a race," he says, "than win over the field and know that I did not have the best core values.
"That's why I think I fit in so well at Boston College," Quinn says. "It wasn't just me and Coach Groden who were on this page. I was surrounded by 8,000 other students who were also on the same page."
As a senior communication major, Quinn served an internship at Boston's WBZ-TV - and didn't think he would ever follow up on a television career. "At first, I developed a negative opinion of the business and told myself, `I will never work in local television news.' Well, I guess you never should say `never,'" he laughs today.
"When I graduated [with magna cum laude honors] a few weeks later, I did some soul-searching and said to myself `If I could do anything, I would like to become an actor.' I went on to do my graduate work at the American Academy for Dramatic Arts in New York City. Three weeks after I graduated from there, I was hired to be on the ABC-TV show `All My Children.' I did that for about four years before moving out to Los Angeles to be on another soap out there called `Santa Barbara.'
Living the West Coast life as an actor meant that Quinn had both ample amounts of money and plenty of free time. He combined both attributes to earn a pilot's license. Following the advice of a friend, he also took courses in meteorology at Santa Monica Community College and earned a Federal Aviation Administration certification in the field. This led him to a part-time job giving weather briefings for commercial and private pilots flying in and out of Santa Monica Municipal Airport.
"Somehow, a television news director saw me and offered me a job at a television station [WVIT-TV] in Charlotteville, Virginia," he says. From there, Quinn went to WTVJ-TV, the NBC affiliate in Miami, where over the next five years he became the station's go-to guy for hurricane forecasts and coverage.
In 2007, Quinn was hired by WCBS-TV in New York and now is the big station's chief weathercaster on the evening and late night news. On Saturday mornings, he serves as the national weather anchor on the network broadcast.
Among Quinn's 10 Emmy Awards are honors as New York's "Best Weather Anchor" in both 2010 and 2011.
"Every bit of my career was made possible by the time that I spent at BC," says Quinn. "It was the perfect school for me. Some people say that you are only as good as the people you surround yourself with. You cannot help but come out of Boston College as a better person than when you came in."