An Afternoon With Brother Hannon

Written on 02/13/2020
Ryan McLaughlin '20 and Chris Ortalano '20

Founder & Executive Producer of Farrell's WFBN Television Studio

In the early 90s, Brother Hannon began working upstate at a Catholic, co-ed high school.  In addition to extensive extracurricular service hours, he ran a studio in the school, which broadcasted interviews, news, and celebrity appearances.  This drew attention from other schools, and Brother developed a good reputation around the state.  Schools like Iona Prep and Farrell recruited him, wanting to incorporate him into the school, and believing he would help them create of a studio of their own. 

Brother had a good relationship with the principal of Iona, and they discussed in depth his plans for the school, and how to make it better.  They had frequent communication, and would often speak about Brother building a studio for Iona.  He also received multiple requests for a personal interview the principal of Farrell, but was not interested at first.  Not only was Farrell six and a half hours away, but he enjoyed the atmosphere of a school run by his fellow brothers.  He didn’t think it was necessary to travel to New York City just to decline an offer, but his superior priests had already arranged a meeting with Monsignor Nevin.  

When Brother walked in to Monsignor’s office, the two immediately recognized each other.  They both discussed what they did within their respective schools, and realized that as athletic directors, they'd sat in the same room before at meetings.  They chatted, and eventually discussed constructing a studio for Farrell.  Brother already had an offer from Iona, and wanted to make sure Monsignor Nevin understood what it took to create a broadcasting network, so he asked how much Monsignor was willing to spend on the project.  Just like a movie scene, Monsignor took a piece of paper, wrote a number on it, and slid it across his desk.  Brother immediately shook his hand and responded, “I’ll see you in September.”  This marked the beginning of Brother Hannon's Farrell career. 

After months of tearing down walls, renovating the entire east wing, rewiring the electric, and ventilation, and installing a state-of-the-art studio, Brother’s final task was finding an anchor.  His recruitment assistant was standing in the cafeteria, scoping out boys with a sense of character, humor, and flair.  One day, he focused on one boy he noticed out of the group, and watched him closely.  His name was John Lavelle.  Brother saw personality, emotion, and legitimate on-air talent, and decided to investigate further.  He found out that Lavelle was in the Farrell Players, and was the lead role in many plays. Brother had found his man.

Lavelle brought great joy to the students and faculty, providing laughs and interesting stories to the Farrell community.  Although Lavelle was a solo anchor, he worked incredibly hard, was fast on his feet, and was particularly witty.  He interviewed numerous celebrities, and brought with him a sense of charm and joy.  Kelly Ripa described him as “excellent,” and Regis Philbin told Brother, “I want to take this kid to Hollywood and make him a star.”  Although his parents refused, Lavelle continued his career at Farrell, and set the stage for all future WFBN anchors.  Lavelle moved on to become a famous voice actor, recently signing a contract with Disney and starring in multiple movies with celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, John C. Reilly, Jason Bateman, and Idris Elba.

Brother described the grueling preparation necessary each and every day, arriving at 5:30 a.m. to set up, and leaving later than most after preparing sets, lights, and scripts for the next day.  His goals and vision for the future of WFBN are to upgrade to the “21st century, technology-wise.”  He wants to update everything but the control room and Studio A, because those have recently been renovated.  By FBN’s 25th anniversary in 2023, Brother wants to complete and fully upgrade the studio.  He estimates the final cost will range from 150 to 200 thousand dollars, but he believes that he can acquire this through donations and friends.  

Brother has been guiding high school students here at Farrell for 25 years, and is looking forward to contributing even more to the community.  He also wants to continue his work in the studio, pushing his crew and technology to be the best they possibly can be.  He exemplifies and embodies the Vir Fidelis here at Farrell, for he is the faithful man with a vision to continue the excellence of WFBN into the future.