In order to create entertainment which is both interesting and historically accurate, McKenna conducts extensive research. In preparation for writing The Pacific, he told an interviewer, he read thirty books in one month. His efforts, and those of the people he worked with, including Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, paid off. The Pacific was nominated for twenty four Emmy Awards in 2010, ultimately winning eight, including Outstanding Miniseries as well as McKennas nomination for Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie, or Dramatic Special. In addition, McKennas episode, Bastogne, from the Band of Brothers series was awarded a Writers Guild Award in 2003.
McKenna graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Wesleyan University in 1984. He received his bachelors degree in European history and received the Dutcher History Prize, which is awarded to the graduating senior with the best record within the history major. He went on to spend a year at Stanford in their Ph.D. program in Russian and Soviet history, focusing on early 20th century Russian fascism.
McKennas visit to the Athenaeum is sponsored by the Gould Center for Humanistic Studies, where he is a member of the Advisory Board. Bruce McKennas visit to campus also coincides with the commemoration of the 103rd birthday of his grandfather, Donald McKenna, founding trustee of Claremont McKenna College.