Donald Bellisario’s name has been coming over the credits of top-rated television shows for 40 years.
Now it will grace a college at Penn State.
On Friday, the university announced that the successful producer and director of shows such as “NCIS” and “Magnum P.I.” is the namesake of the university’s Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications.
Bellisario is also giving $30 million to establish the Donald P. Bellisario Media Center.
“Donald P. Bellisario ranks among Penn State’s most accomplished alumni, and his achievements and generosity will continue to inspire our students and faculty for generations to come,” said Penn State President Eric Barron in a news release. “Through this historic gift, the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications will have the resources to support future media pioneers as they pursue the same innovation, excellence and integrity that have characterized Don’s own career.”
The Penn State journalism alumnus worked at the Centre Daily Times before going into advertising and later transitioning to Hollywood. He has been named a Distinguished Alumnus of Penn State.
Bellisario himself appeared at the Willard Building to answer questions about the donation, though the conversation eventually wandered into his Hollywood achievements.
“I would characterize this as the greatest moment in the history of the college,” College of Communications Dean Marie Harden said as she introduced Bellisario. “I don’t think that’s overstating it.”
Bellisario commented on how much the college has changed since his time, moving from a school of journalism and advertising to what it is today.
“When I left here, I had no knowledge of film,” he said, “so I taught myself to shoot film, taught myself to edit film and do commercials that way. It really worked out for me.”
Bellisario said the millions would be going into student scholarships, some of which he and his wife have already established at the university, and physical facilities to provide updated equipment to the students. This, he said, will allow the students to learn everything he had to learn on his own.
Former trustee Mimi Coppersmith, who shared a long history with Bellisario and greeted him at his appearance, told a story of his generosity when it comes to Penn State. According to Coppersmith, during a scholarship drive, she was asked by Bellisario how much she still needed to reach her goal.
When she told him she still needed $62,000, she said, he replied, “You got it.”
“It was the easiest sale I ever made,” she said.
Bellisario also doled out some advice on how to make it in show business, passing along a story of the time he met Jack Nicholson. According to Nicholson, and Bellisario, if you want to work in Hollywood, you have to be in Hollywood.
But, ultimately to be successful, he said, it’s a matter of following your passion.
“You don’t do (this job) for the money, you do this for love,” he said. “You want to do the work.”
According to the university, Bellisario and his wife, Vivienne, created a trustees scholarship with a $1 million commitment in 2006, and have made additional gifts to that fund, with about 350 students — many of them veterans or active-duty service members — benefiting over the years.