Bob Iger ’73, high-caliber Ithaca College alumnus and CEO of the Disney empire, came to visit his alma mater Oct. 26 to speak to the college community.
Iger was touring the campus with his son Max, who is a high school senior looking at colleges, and wife Willow Bay, director of the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Journalism. While visiting the campus, Iger agreed to participate in a Q&A in Ford Hall, said Diane Gayeski, dean of the Roy H. Park School of Communications. He mainly spoke about his experience at the college and what skills he has learned in order to be successful in his career path.
President Tom Rochon opened the event by acknowledging Iger’s accomplishments, such as his recent establishment of Disneyland Shanghai. Rochon noted Iger’s loyalty to the college, his involvement on campus as a student and his ability to give everyone his full attention in any situation.
After Rochon welcomed Iger to the stage, Iger joined Gayeski and Sean Reid, dean of the School of Business, at a small table for a short interview before allowing students to ask their own questions. Reid began by asking Iger why he passed up the chance to attend the University of Pennsylvania for Ithaca College. Iger said he stumbled upon the college after a visit to Cornell University and ended up only applying to the college because he was impressed by the Park School.
After graduating from the college, Iger started out as a weather forecaster and feature news reporter at a local cable studio in Ithaca. Then he began to look at other areas for work and landed in New York City as a production assistant for ABC News. He said that when he first graduated from the college, he never would have expected to end up where he is today.
This unpredictable journey Iger relayed to the audience was sophomore April Carroll’s favorite moment of his talk, she said. She said she attended the event as a requirement for class and enjoyed his overall attitude toward the audience.
“I liked all the questions that were asked, and I feel like he covered it really well,” Carroll said. “He didn’t come off as a pretentious person. He was really humble.”
Gayeski asked Iger about what traits he has that make him successful in the business world. He said modesty, a great work ethic and trust are important to success. He said he is currently writing a book on leadership, which has forced him to think more about the integral aspects of being a great leader.
“No matter how successful you are, and no matter how good or great the world thinks you are, it’s still really important to not let it go to your head,” Iger said.
This point stuck out to senior Michael Ranalli, who said he appreciated what Iger told the audience.
“I thought it was really informational,” Ranalli said. “He was telling us a lot of the same stuff that my professors are telling me. I thought it was extremely relevant.”
Iger gave the audience a behind-the-scenes look at his job, like the recent creation of Disneyland Shanghai, remembering the 40 times he traveled to the city to prepare for the project. He said these trips were necessary for achieving the project and encouraged the audience members to visit other countries as well to expand their worldviews. He related this piece of advice to one of his mottos:
“If you don’t go, you won’t grow,” Iger said.
He also advised students to be curious in all aspects of life if they want to become successful. He said he can identify a curious person by how much they have read and traveled and by the movies they have watched.
Junior Addison Rolleri said this advice was the reason she attended the event.
“I would love to, one day, work at a company like Disney,” Rolleri said. “So hearing his advice on success and how to get into the industry was something I was really interested in.”
Bryan Roberts, associate dean of the Park School, said it is important that alumni like Iger talk to the campus community.
“It’s good for people to see arguably one of our most successful alums,” Roberts said. “He really wanted to speak to the students. No one has to prod him or convince him to do it. He loves to do it.”