American Journalist Killed in Ukraine Was SMU Grad Who Tutored East Dallas Kids

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A Fox News journalist is in critical condition after being injured in Ukraine, just days after American journalist Brent Renaud was killed.

Fox News confirms Benjamin Hall was injured while reporting on the Russian invasion just outside Kyiv.

This, as we learn more about Brent Renaud and his ties to North Texas.

The Arkansas native is a Southern Methodist University graduate who mentored at-risk children in Dallas.

Before a distinguished career in journalism and film full of honors including a Peabody Award in 2015 for the Vice News documentary ‘Last Chance High,' Brent Renaud was an English major at SMU.

Renaud lived in what was then the university’s collaborative program with Dallas Habitat for Humanity called ‘Inter-Community Experience’ or ICE House.

The program was a ‘service-learning opportunity for students,’ according to SMU spokeswoman Kimberly Cobb. ‘[Renaud] was one of four students who lived in the house year-round, provided free tutoring and programming to neighborhood children, and who also volunteered in the community.’

“It’s a program that was working with at-risk children and their families in what was then an at-risk neighborhood in Dallas called Garrett Park East which is now lowest lowest Greenville,” said SMU senior professor in the English Department Dr. Bruce Levy who became the program’s director in 1993.

Renaud graduated from SMU in 1994 with a major in English and a minor in sociology, according to Cobb.

He went on to report and film documentaries across the nation and world, most recently near Kyiv, Ukraine.

Renaud was in the war-torn country documenting the global refugee crisis for Time Magazine when he was gunned down over the weekend, according to NBC News.

The State Department confirmed his death Sunday after Ukrainian authorities reported he was found dead amid heavy Russian shelling.

NBC News has, however, not independently verified this account.

“My jaw dropped. I couldn’t believe it,” said Levy. “It’s just devastating. I know a lot of people who are in shock today.”

Levy said it was Renaud who taught him the ropes of the tutoring program when Levy became director.

“What I remember about Brent is that he was deeply committed to the cause,” he said. “He was really way ahead of the curve when it came to reaching out and creating ties between SMU and the Dallas community.”

At times, the private university was ‘a bubble,’ disconnected from the realities of disadvantaged families living just a few miles away, said Levy.

Renaud was not.

“He was really involved with the neighborhood. He was there all the time and he was very involved in the lives of the children and the families of the neighborhood,” he said. “[He was] just a down-to-earth regular guy who the kids loved. Because they knew that he loved them.”

Renault is being remembered as a compassionate storyteller who left a mark on many.

In 2019, the Little Rock, Arkansas native was a ‘visiting distinguished professor’ at the University of Arkansas. The Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences tweeted Renaud ‘will be greatly missed by all whose lives he touched. Our hearts & thoughts go out to his family, friends & journalists everywhere who bear witness and report on our world's history as it unfolds.’

“He was a very talented guy, and he was courageous,” said Levy. “He was fearless.”

Renaud’s family could not be reached for comment.

On Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy released a statement extending condolences to Renaud’s family saying he ‘lost his life while documenting the ruthlessness and evil inflicted upon Ukrainian people by Russia.’ Adding: ‘May Brent’s life and sacrifice inspire the world to stand up in fight for the forces of light against forces of darkness.’

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