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College of Communications Presents: “Happy Valley to Hollywood”

On Friday, October 26, four Penn State alumni who have worked in the television industry will return to University Park to speak. The informal conversation is called “Happy Valley to Hollywood,” and will discuss their careers in the industry, which includes roles in creating some of the most popular shows on television.

Gerald Abrams, Don Bellisario, Carmen Finestra, and James P. Jimirro will be the four panelists. All four men have been honored with the Distinguished Alumni Award, which is the highest honor the University bestows on individuals. The men have also been nominated for, or won a total of 15 Emmy Awards.

Carmen Finestra graduated in 1971, and went on to write for “The Cosby Show,” where he ended up as the show’s supervising producer, and “Home Improvement,” where he was a co-executive producer. For both shows, he earned three Emmys. He cofounded Wind Dancer Productions with Tim Allen.  He also founded the Carmen J. Finestra Editing Lab at Innovation Park for College of Communications students.

Gerald Abrams graduated from Penn State in 1961 and went on to create Cypress Productions. He won Emmys for “Nuremburg” and “The Defection of Simas Kudirka.” He also served as an executive producer for FX’s “44 Minutes,” as well as ESPN’s “Four Minutes.” His career has spanned over four decades. Abrams and his late wife, Carol, both went to Penn State, and his son, J.J. followed in his dad’s footsteps and directed movies like “Star Trek,” “Super 8,” and “Mission: Impossible III,” as well as creating series like “Lost” and “Alias.”

Don Bellisario, like Abrams, graduated in 1961. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, for creating shows such as “NCIS,” “JAG,” and “Magnum P.I.” He is a retired Marine, and many of the shows he worked on featured military characters. He also has a scholarship in his name in the College of Communications, which awards $1 million in scholarships to students.

Finally, the creator and founding president of The Disney Channel and Walt Disney Home Video, James P. Jimirro, is a 1958 graduate of Penn State. He is also National Lampoon’s current chairman of the board. He also established the Jimirro Institute For the Study of Media Influence at Penn State.

This will take place at 3 p.m. in the Playhouse Theatre, located near the Forum. The College of Communications and the College of Arts & Architecture are co-sponsors of this free, ticketless event. It will last for 75 minutes, and is open to the public.

Penn State Live contributed to this post.

About the Author

Meghin Moore

Meghin is a senior majoring in Broadcast Journalism and minoring in English. She transferred from the Harrisburg campus as a junior to finish out her schooling at University Park. She has a passion for all things music, fashion, art, and food. She's a Pennsylvania native (born outside of Pittsburgh, and lived in Lebanon for 11 years), but resides in Virginia when she's not in school, and has moved a total of ten times in her life, mostly thanks to the military.


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