Two ILR alumni whose influence has been deeply felt in the fields of entertainment and sports were honored at the Groat and Alpern Awards in New York City Thursday.
Jonathan L. Dolgen ’66, former chairman and chief executive officer of the Viacom Entertainment Group, received the Jerome Alpern Award.
Robert D. Manfred, Jr.,’80, commissioner of Major League Baseball, received the Judge William B. Groat Alumni Award.
Manfred began his remarks with the fact that two commissioners of the four major professional sports are ILR graduates. Gary Bettman ’74 leads the National Hockey League.
“It may be a coincidence that ILR has produced two out of four commissioners, but there are a couple of things about professional sports that make ILR graduates uniquely qualified in professional sports.”
Manfred said that uniqueness is due to baseball and professional sports, in general, being the last bastion of strong labor unions.
“Our players actively engage in the collective bargaining process in large numbers,” Manfred said. “Their participation in that process influences the way the game is played on the field and how we do business of the field.”
Manfred credits his ILR education and Samuel Bacharach, McKelvey-Grant Professor and director of the Institute for Workplace Studies and Smithers Institute, for shaping his outlook on leadership.
“Leadership is more than vision and goals,” Manfred said at The Pierre, a Manhattan hotel where nearly 400 guests gathered for the event.
“Don’t get me wrong. A vision and clearly articulated goals are important.”
“But, to be successful, particularly in the unique environment of professional sports, a leader needs political skills to secure goals within an organization and to convince various constituencies that achieving the organization’s goals is actually good for them.”
Before presenting the Alpern Award, Kevin Hallock, ILR’s Kenneth F. Kahn Dean and its Joseph R. Rich '80 Professor of Economics and Human Resource Studies, read a quote by Dolgen on the importance of Cornell in his life.
“It hadn’t occurred to me before I went to Cornell that everything was possible,” Hallock read. “If I compete and thrive here, I could compete and thrive anywhere.”
Dolgen’s daughter, Tamar Dolgen A&S ’93, accepted the award on behalf of her father, who was unable to attend the event.
She described how Cornell transformed her father’s life after arriving in Ithaca on a scholarship.
“He excelled at ILR because he devours books and thrives on debate,” Tamar Dolgen said. “He says he knows a little about a lot of things, but the truth is that he knows a lot about a lot because he reads and remembers everything.”
Jonathan Dolgen went on to have a career in the television and movie business, and to support ILR and Cornell in many ways.
“He was exceptional at giving back to Cornell and the community,” Tamar Dolgen said.
“My parents and my grandparents felt that it was an obligation whether they were ‘back then’ [and] did not have a lot of money, or when they excelled at being charitable. My dad says he always tries to pay back because we now seem paid for.”
From April 1994 to July 2004, Dolgen served as the chairman and chief executive officer of the Viacom Entertainment Group, where his work included motion picture production and distribution, television production and distribution, and publishing.
He is now principal and senior consultant at Wood River Ventures, LLC, and has been a private investor since 2004.