Brent Renaud – Journalist and SMU Alum Killed in Ukraine – Leaves Behind “World-Changer” Legacy

Brent Renaud, an award-winning documentary filmmaker and Southern Methodist University alum, leaves behind an undeniable legacy after being killed while covering the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Renaud, originally from Little Rock, Arkansas, was covering the emerging refugee crisis in Ukraine when he was shot to death by Russian forces at a vehicle checkpoint outside of Kyiv. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky posted a letter of condolence last Monday to Renaud’s family praising his “courage and determination” in documenting Ukraine’s struggle.

Renaud graduated from SMU in 1994 with a major in English and a minor in sociology. During his time at SMU, he participated in the school’s Inter-Community Experience program designed to bridge the gap between the SMU “bubble” and surrounding communities. Renaud and other students mentored at-risk children in Garrett Park while living in a Habitat for Humanity home in the neighborhood.

SMU professor Dr. Bruce Levy who headed the program said Renaud was sincerely dedicated to the program and did the work for all of the right reasons.

“He was really what these days we would call a community activist,” Levy said. “He would walk the streets with the kids, get to know their families and gain their trust. He wasn’t trying to build a resume, it was just totally one hundred percent sincere on his part.”

Renaud’s determination was backed by his courage.

“He liked to be in areas that others would think of as very dangerous, and he was very courageous,” Levy said. “The thing about him that I really respect so much is that he really figured out how to live his values, and not all of us are fortunate or courageous enough to do that.”

Renaud’s values and his commitment to his community is evident in his work after graduating SMU. Alongside his brother, Craig Renaud, he used his talents to produce documentaries divulging humanitarian crises across the world including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, cartel violence in Mexico and the youth refugee crisis in Central America according to a biography on the brothers’ website.

In 2014, the Renaud brothers received a Peabody Award for a docu-series called “Last Chance High” that explores the stories of students in a Chicago school who had been expelled from other schools in the city.

While covering humanitarian stories across the world, Renaud maintained a commitment to his hometown community in Little Rock, Arkansas. He kept a home and studio in Little Rock and co-founded the Little Rock Film Festival that helped the film-making community thrive, according to the Arkansas Times.

When he was in Ukraine, Renaud was working for Time Magazine on a project focused on the stories of Ukrainian citizens, now refugees, whose lives were changed forever with the Russian invasion.

Renaud’s dedication to covering humanitarian issues in major conflict zones demonstrated what it means to be a world-changer in every community.