Patrick Rees ’05 receives ElonComm’s Outstanding Alumnus Award

The senior vice president of communications for Madison Square Garden Sports was recognized Nov. 4 during the School of Communications’ Homecoming festivities.

Prior to receiving the School of Communications’ Outstanding Alumnus Award, Patrick Rees ’05 (center) speaks with students in Snow Family Grand Atrium during a Nov. 4 networking session. Rees serves as the senior vice president of communications for Madison Square Garden Sports.

Patrick Rees ’05, an accomplished sports communications leader, was recognized on Nov. 4 with the School of Communications’ Outstanding Alumnus Award. The senior vice president of communications for Madison Square Garden Sports is the 12th recipient of the award that celebrates ElonComm alumni who have achieved significant professional success.

The Elon alumnus was celebrated on Nov. 4 during the school’s Homecoming festivities, which featured a networking session with students and graduates in Snow Family Grand Atrium, followed by an alumni social at The Oak House. Interim Dean Kenn Gaither introduced Rees to attendees, noting his steady climb in the professional sport industry, which has led him to MSG Sports where he oversees the public relations activities across the company’s portfolio of professional sports assets, highlighted by the New York Knicks and New York Rangers franchises.

Interim Dean Kenn Gaither (left) presented Rees with the school’s Outstanding Alumnus Award, citing the alumnus’ 15-plus years working in sports communications.

In his role, Rees directs the company’s public relations efforts while working closely with team management and MSG Sports leadership to support business priorities. In addition, he is responsible for developing publicity strategies that further build the teams’ brands while overseeing major announcements, issues management, and other communications initiatives.

In his welcome and award presentation, Gaither said he relished the opportunity to “honor a truly distinguished alumnus.” In their conversations leading up to and during Rees’ campus visit, Gaither said he was inspired by Rees’ warm personality as well as his professionalism.

“His digital footprint reveals a professional who is highly respected,” Gaither said of Rees. “And so much of his social media is lifting others and recognizing their achievements.”

Gaither shared a few anecdotes that arose during his conversations with this year’s award recipient. He noted that Rees was a broadcast journalism and French double major at Elon, a pairing that likely drew questions on how he’d use his foreign language professionally. Now working in the NBA, where team rosters often include international players, Rees can easily communicate with French-speaking players, Gaither noted.

During the award presentation, Dean Gaither noted that many individuals consider Steph Curry the best player in the NBA. “I don’t think it is an exaggeration to call Patrick the ‘Steph Curry of communications in the NBA,’” the dean explained. “Patrick has proven time and time again, across multiple teams and roles, that his work is at an MVP level.”

Secondly, Gaither recalled that Rees did not secure his first internship until his second semester of his senior year, but that the experience gave him the “pivot he needed to move from one career path to another.”

“This shows the power of internships,” Gaither said. “And these examples demonstrate the unmatched value of a liberal arts education steeped in communications. Throw in chutzpah and the sparks of motivation and you have an unbeatable combination as Patrick shows us.”

Gaither concluded, “As Patrick’s professional focus is on branding, his brand is one that engenders quality, character and humility.”

During his award acceptance, which featured the afternoon’s cutest moment when his young daughter unexpectedly joined at him at the podium, Rees charged the students in attendance to not overlook opportunities when they are presented – noting the alumni connections in the room.

“To the current students, really take advantage of the opportunity that you have here,” he said. “Really utilize the resources that you have available, and network, network, network. What I found in my career is that relationships matter. And relationships will help not only get your foot in the door, but they will help with your professional advancement and your professional success.”

During his visit with Assistant Professor Mark Cryan’s Sport Sales and Promotion class, Rees discussed his early career path in the sport industry, including the importance he placed on networking with fellow public relations professionals.

The 2005 graduate has enjoyed much professional success of his own, steadily rising through the ranks of several prominent NBA franchises. Prior to joining MSG Sports in March 2022, Rees worked for Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, where he served as vice president of communications for the Philadelphia 76ers. In this role he implemented strategic and crisis communications plans for all team and organizational matters, including press outreach strategy to build the 76ers brand. Before joining the 76ers, Rees served as director of basketball communications for the Washington Wizards and also held communications roles with the Brooklyn Nets and San Antonio Spurs. Following several internships, Rees began his public relations career with Walt Disney World Sports Attractions.

Prior to receiving his alumni award, Rees visited with students in Associate Professor Tom Nelson’s Communications in a Global Age class and Assistant Professor Mark Cryan’s Sport Sales and Promotion course, and he participated in a student luncheon. Rees, who had Nelson as a professor, shared several details about his career path and a few of his educational missteps – referencing the last-minute internship late in his Elon tenure.

Alumni-student networking session

Nearly a dozen alumni participated in the school’s informal networking session with students, titled “Don’t be a Stranger to Networking.” Students and alumni discussed internships, careers, classes, clubs and other topics. The alumni participants included:

  • Ethan Gabriel ’22, events and social media manager, Hunter Rowe Real Estate
  • Melanie Koolhof Griffiths ’02, entertainment guest experience manager, Walt Disney World
  • Peyton Lea ’10, filmmaker, Peyton Lea Productions
  • Janell Otis Niebuhr ‘02, executive administrator, Flagship Healthcare Properties
  • Conor O’Neill ’11, publisher of Deacons Illustrated and Devils Illustrated,
  • Jackie Pascale ’18, anchor and reporter, WXII News
  • Patrick Rees ’05, senior vice president of communications, MSG Sports
  • Dominique Rousseau ’22, brand coordinator, McKinney
  • Kaylin Skipwith G’18, senior omnichannel specialist, G&S Business Communications
  • Alyssa Zee ’21, assistant manager of merchandising, PUMA Group