Former White House press secretary and CSU-Pueblo alumna returns to Pueblo

Photo courtesy of
Photo courtesy of

When Dana Perino’s dad first drove her to Pueblo to look at the University of Southern Colorado almost 20 years ago, she was reluctant.

Perino, who would later serve as press secretary for President George W. Bush, wanted to attend college at a larger university. Spending four years at a small school in Pueblo wasn’t how she imagined her college days.

“I pouted the entire way, from Parker to Pueblo. I just looked out the window. I couldn’t even meet his eyes. I was so upset that he was making me go look at that school,” she said.

But almost immediately upon arriving on campus at USC, which would later become CSU-Pueblo, Perino met several professors and realized the school was perfect for her.

“I got this scholarship offer for the speech team and I also think I was smart enough to realize that the practical experience that I could get at the school would lead me to opportunities I couldn’t get if I went and studied theory anywhere else for four years,” she said.

Years later, she would use her experiences at USC in her job at the White House. She credits her mass communications professors, including former department chair Jen Mullen, with preparing her for her career.

“Jen Mullen had had such great experience in the public relations world. And I loved her class. I learned so much, things that actually helped me later on in the justice department,” Perino said.

After graduating from USC, Perino attended the University of Illinois Springfield to obtain a master’s degree in public affairs reporting. When she finished the program, she wasn’t sure she wanted a career in the field.

“I just spent all this money to get a degree in something I don’t want to do. So, I felt very lost, personally,” she said. “I was getting desperate because I didn’t want to wait tables that much longer.”

Not long after graduating, she noticed that Colorado’s state senate president Tom Horton was hiring for a deputy press secretary position and decided to apply. During her time at USC, she hosted a show on Rocky Mountain PBS called Capitol Journal, in which she frequently interviewed Colorado Rep. Scott McInnis.

So, she called McInnis’s office looking for a reference for the deputy press secretary position.

“They said, ‘if you’re looking for a job, we would love you have you come work for us.’ And my heart stopped because I thought they meant it was in Pueblo. I didn’t know how to say I don’t want to go back to Pueblo for that job,” Perino said.

“So, I kind of started backpedaling and then I realized in the conversation that it wasn’t in Pueblo, it was in Washington, D.C. and that changed everything for me,” she said.

From there, Perino’s career would eventually evolve into a position at the White House. Today, she is a host on Fox News Channel’s “The Five.”

“I am a big believer, and one of the reasons I wrote this book is I want to make sure people understand you do not have to have gone to an Ivy League school or an elite university to end up advising the president of the United States in the Oval Office,” she said.

Perino will be returning to Pueblo May 30 to promote her new book “And the Good News Is…” A signing will take place at Pueblo’s Barnes and Noble, located at 4300 North Freeway, at 6:30 p.m.

“I love the turnout in Denver and Fort Collins, but I have a feeling the Pueblo one is going to be very special,” she said.