Michael Eisner '64 Funds Professorship at Denison
Posted: February 18, 2008
Denison University announces that Michael Eisner, class of 1964, has given the college gifts through The Eisner Foundation to create an endowment valued at $1.75 million. The gifts establish the Dominick Consolo Endowed Professorship, named in honor of one of Mr. Eisner’s favorite Denison professors. Dr. Consolo is an emeritus professor of English at the college, having been an active faculty member from 1958 until his retirement in 1992.
The professorship will recognize the “exemplary achievements in teaching and scholarship” of a current faculty member while funding a portion of salary, benefits and research at the college.
“As a Denison student, Michael Eisner not only enjoyed the resourcefulness that a liberal arts education cultivates but, obviously, discovered the importance of close relationships with outstanding teachers,” observes Denison President Dale Knobel. “Michael’s care for his college has been evident throughout the more than 35 years he has served Denison as an Active and Life Trustee, and the professorship he has endowed in Dr. Consolo’s name speaks to the way in which Michael wishes to ensure that students today and tomorrow will experience great teaching.”
Best known for his celebrated role as chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Co. and for transforming that company into a global media empire, Eisner is now host of CNBC’s “Conversations with Michael Eisner.” He also is the former president of Paramount Pictures. Recently, Eisner has formed a new enterprise, which he has named The Tornante Company, invoking the Italian word for “hairpin turn.”
Eisner and wife Jane started The Eisner Foundation Inc. in 1996 to focus their family’s philanthropic activities. Together with their children, Breck, Eric and Anders, the Eisners’ foundation has given approximately $7 million each year to nonprofit organizations, mostly in the Los Angeles County area of Southern California.
Eisner double-majored in English and theatre at Denison. He has written (in his memoir “Work in Progress”) that Consolo, who “stood on his desk to lecture [and] loved poetry” became one of the inspirations for the Robin Williams character in “Dead Poets Society,” a movie produced by The Walt Disney Co. under Eisner’s leadership. Eisner also recounted an instance following one of Consolo’s lectures on “Moby Dick,” when he asked his professor, “What if this whole thing is not a giant moral allegory but just a giant, satirical ‘fish story’?” In reply, Consolo smiled and noted, “Well, Moby Dick’s a mammal, but the ‘what if,’ ah, that’s full of promise,” and promptly named Eisner “Mr. What If.” Eisner concludes by writing in his memoir that “In retrospect, that seems appropriate. ‘What if?’ is something I’ve been asking all my life.”
More recently, Eisner told USA Today that “Literature is unbelievably helpful because no matter what business you are in, you are dealing with interpersonal relationships. It gives you an appreciation of what makes people tick.”
Consolo reports that when he recently found a phone message on his answering machine from Eisner, he speculated that Michael was calling to ask his help in locating an arcane reference in “Moby Dick.” He was therefore surprised when Eisner informed him of the generous endowed professorship in his name. Consolo is gratified and enormously pleased that his former student has chosen this way to contribute to Denison.
Denison University, founded in 1831, is an independent, residential liberal arts institution located in Granville, Ohio. A highly selective college enrolling 2,100 full-time undergraduate students from all 50 states and dozens of foreign countries, Denison is a place where innovative faculty and motivated students collaborate in rigorous scholarship, civic engagement and the cultivation of independent thinking.
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