Alumni Association Awards 2008

This year's Ithaca College Alumni Association Awards were given during the annual banquet held on Saturday night during Alumni Weekend. This year's honorees were retired dance faculty member Vergiu Cornea, who received the James J. Whalen Meritorious Service Award (with more than a dozen of his former students in attendance); Bill Diehl '63, longtime ABC News Radio correspondent, anchor, and host, who was honored with the Professional Achievement Award; singer Tony DeSare '98, who received the Outstanding Young Alumni Award (and wowed the awards dinner crowd with a performance); George R. Hoerner ’47, M.S. ’53, speech-drama and television-radio professor and departments chair, who was honored posthumously with the Lifetime Achievement Award; Bob Iger'73, CEO of the Walt Disney Company and honorary chair of the recently concluded Campaign for Ithaca College: Making a World of Difference, who received the Edgar‘“Dusty” Bredbenner Jr. ’50 Distinguished Alumni Award; and the late George C. Williams, second president of Ithaca College (then the Ithaca Conservatory of Music), who was honored with the James J. Whalen Meritorious Service Award. Read more about all the honorees below.


2008 James J. Whalen Meritorious Service Award

Vergiu Cornea

IC retiree Vergiu Cornea was the first instructor of dance at Ithaca College, where he taught from 1957 to 1979.

Cornea was born in Romania in 1914 and knew from a young age that he wanted to dance. He studied at the Royal Academy of Art, where his training led to the creation of original costumes, masks, and elaborate appliqué paintings, which he still makes, even in his 90s!

After graduating, Cornea moved to Berlin, the European center for everything new in dance. There he studied ballet with Vera Karalli and modern dance with Harold Kreutzberg, Max Terpis, and Mary Wigman.

Cornea shaped a distinguished career as first dancer of the Berlin Comic Opera and ballet master of the Hamburg State Opera. He also danced in films, including The Red Shoes, his feet often stand-ins for Robert Helpmann’s.

Cornea worked with Conrad Veidt in an unfinished film on Rasputin and gave Jean Cocteau the idea of the arms holding candelabra for Beauty and the Beast. Fluent in German and French, he translated for Josephine Baker when she came to Berlin — and performed the Charleston with her.

Cornea moved to the United States in 1956, and when Ithaca College asked him to choreograph The Merry Wives of Windsor and The King and I, his career at IC began. He also became the founding artistic director of the Ithaca Ballet.

Today, Cornea’s legacy as a teacher is treasured by his former students. “You couldn’t take your eyes off him when he moved,” recalls New York-based actor Sal Mistretta ’66. “His turning was spot on, his kicks were wonderful — and when he’d demonstrate stuff, it was so clean you’d understand by his example.”


2008 Outstanding Young Alumni Award

Anthony J. DeSare ’98

Tony DeSare was raised in a musical family and began singing and playing professionally at 17. By the time he started at IC, he had opened for visiting headliners and built a large following in central New York. He took first place in the IC Showcase, a College-sponsored national battle of the bands, and was a semifinalist in the MasterCard Acts, a national talent search for college performers.

In 1999 Tony was cast as the star in the long-running off-Broadway musical Our Sinatra, in which he was praised by Variety for his ‘“dapper charm.’” In the fall of 2002, he performed at the Apollo Theater, where he first met jazz guitar icon Bucky Pizzarelli. Since then, Tony and Bucky have performed numerous times together.

Tony’s CD Want You debuted at no. 16 on the Billboard chart when it was released in 2005. The CD includes such standards as ‘“Two for the Road’” and ‘“Just in Time,’” as well as originals like ‘“How I Will Say I Love You’” and the title track. Tony has performed selections from the CD on CBS’s The Early Show, NBC’s Weekend Today, and Superstation WGN.

His follow-up CD, Last First Kiss, debuted at no. 5 on the Billboard chart in 2007 and was also included on the Billboard Heatseekers chart at no. 30. Tony was interviewed on CNN, and the CD received a rave review in USA Today. The album combines Tony’s distinctive songwriting with a refreshingly eclectic mix of songs, from Prince’s “Kiss” and Carole King’s “I Feel the Earth Move” to classics like “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To” and Sammy Cahn–Jimmy Van Heusen’s little-known “Come On Strong.”

Tony also composed and performed the title theme, “(I’d Have It All) If I Had Drew” — to My Date with Drew, a comedic documentary film awarded top honors at the New York Gen Art Festival, the HBO Comedy Arts Festival, and the Vail Film Festival (directed, edited, and produced by Jon Gunn ’95, Brian Herzlinger ’97, and Brett Winn ’95).

Tony’s big band show, which debuted at the fabled Sands Hotel in Atlantic City, caused the New York Times to rave, “With his dark wavy hair, bright brown eyes, and toothpaste smile that rarely fades, [Mr. DeSare] exhibits the slicked-up charm of an early 60s pop star with Rat Pack dreams.”

Tony has appeared at every major jazz club in the country, including Birdland and Café Carlyle, and continues to perform around the world.



2008 Professional Achievement Award

William A. Diehl ’63

Bill Diehl’s broadcasting career began more than half a century ago in his hometown of Corning, New York. Diehl, then a sophomore in high school, was hired part-time at WCLI. From then on, it was clear that radio was in his blood.

After graduating from high school in 1958, Bill continued his education at Ithaca College, graduating with a degree in television-radio. During his IC years he participated in programs on the College radio and TV stations and became news director at a commercial radio station in Ithaca, WTKO, an ABC affiliate. ABC would later play a major role in his life.

In 1964 Bill moved to Washington, D.C., first working at station WWDC, then in 1965 at WTOP, the CBS flagship, where he was a newsman for both WTOP radio and TV.

In 1967 Bill’s career took him to New York, where he joined the staff of the nation’s premier music and news station, WNEW, winning an Ohio State Award for the documentary Where Have All the Animals Gone.

In 1971 a network came calling, and Bill was hired as a correspondent for ABC News Radio, anchoring newscasts and covering a wide range of stories from national conventions and floods to riots and blackouts.

In 1982 he was sent to Los Angeles to cover the Academy Awards, which led to more entertainment events, including the Grammys, the Emmys, and the Tony Awards. In 1986 Bill became the ABC radio network’s chief entertainment correspondent, which included a daily show, Bill Diehl’s Spotlight, featuring interviews with many of the best-known entertainers in the business. In the early ’90s he added movie reviews, and his blurbs for films often appeared in newspapers and on TV.

In 2006 Bill celebrated more than 35 years with ABC. Although he officially retired in November 2007, he has not left the business. He continues his voice-over career and contributes to ABC News Radio as a freelance correspondent.

Bill resides in Manhattan with his wife, Lorraine, a writer. Their daughter, Suzanne Brooks, is a child psychologist in Needham, Massachusetts. She and her husband, an attorney, have two children.


2008 Lifetime Achievement Award (posthumous)

George R. Hoerner ’47, M.S. ’53

A native of Staten Island, George Hoerner began his professional career as a set designer with theater companies in New York City and throughout the Northeast. Before attending Ithaca, he also worked as a commercial artist and cartographer with a New York publishing house.

He received bachelor of fine arts and master’s degrees from Ithaca College and joined the Ithaca College faculty. He later achieved the rank of professor and chair of both the speech-drama and television-radio departments. During that time he played a significant role in the development of the College’s Dillingham Center for the Performing Arts.

Hoerner also taught at the College’s London Center, served on the board of New York State Community Theatres, and was an active member of the Ithaca College Alumni Association.

Through his teaching, devotion to the College, and professional activities George cultivated the fine reputation that Ithaca’s theater arts and speech communication departments still enjoy today. He retired from the College in 1976 and was named professor emeritus.

Following his death in 1981, a memorial scholarship was established in Hoerner’s name. At its February 1983 meeting, the Ithaca College Board of Trustees passed a resolution naming the main theater in Dillingham Center the George R. Hoerner Theatre in his memory.


2008 Edgar ‘“Dusty’” Bredbenner Jr. ’50 Distinguished Alumni Award

Robert A. Iger ’73

Bob Iger is president and chief executive officer of the Walt Disney Company. The sixth CEO in the company’s 84-year history, Bob was appointed to the post on October 1, 2005.

Previously, Bob served as president and chief operating officer of The Walt Disney Company, a position he had held since January 2000. In this role, he oversaw all aspects of the company’s worldwide operations, including its filmed entertainment, theme parks and resorts, media networks, and consumer products businesses. Bob also became a member of Disney’s board of directors at this time.

Bob began his career at ABC in 1974, soon after graduating from IC with a degree in television-radio. He held a series of increasingly responsible senior management positions at the company, including serving as president and chief operating officer of Capital Cities/ABC, where he guided the complex merger of ABC with The Walt Disney Company. ABC saw tremendous growth during Bob’s career there, becoming a market leader in broadcast television and expanding into numerous cable and related ventures.

During his years with ABC, Bob oversaw its broadcast television network and stations, radio operations, and publishing and cable television businesses, which include the market-leading brands of ABC, ESPN, Lifetime, A&E, and the History Channel. He officially joined the Disney senior management team in 1996 as chairman of the Disney-owned ABC Group, and in 1999 was given the additional responsibility of president of Walt Disney International.

Bob is a member of the board of directors of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. He is also a trustee of the American Film Institute Board and serves on the executive advisory board of the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.

An honorary member of the Ithaca College Board of Trustees, Bob served as the honorary chair of the Campaign for Ithaca College: Making a World of Difference. He has also supported the College as an admissions volunteer and as a member of the committee for the College’s Campaign for the School of Music.

Bob is married to television journalist and author Willow Bay. He has two daughters and two sons.



2008 James J. Whalen Meritorious Service Award (posthumous)

George C. Williams

George Williams was born July 23, 1874, in Dryden, New York. He graduated from Boston’s New England Conservatory College of Oratory in 1893 and received an additional bachelor of oratory degree in 1894 from Boston University. That same year he accepted an offer to organize a drama and public speaking department at the Nebraska Conservatory of Music. In 1895 he established his own Nebraska School of Oratory.

A Tompkins County native, Williams returned to Ithaca in 1897 from Nebraska, where he had directed two schools of oration. Ithaca Conservatory founder W. Grant Egbert hired him to create what would become the Williams School of Expression and Dramatic Art. Williams had planned to attend Cornell University and work toward his goal of be- coming a minister; however, because of his entrepreneurial flair, he was named the conservatory’s business manager and his ministerial plans were sidetracked. It’s been said that without Williams’s business and advertising skills, the fledgling conservatory might not have survived.

Williams initiated or assisted several financial ventures meant to lead the school to fiscal solvency. These ranged from his becoming a primary stockholder with Egbert to taking on, temporarily, the full debt load himself. A dedicated thespian, Williams organized students into performance companies that toured the country and Canada, touting the benefits of an Ithaca education. He was named the second president of the conservatory in 1924. One of his most noteworthy, albeit controversial, initiatives was a commission system for compensating faculty and administrators. He also set about personally recruiting many of the school’s nonmusical faculty members.

Among Williams’s most influential acts was securing land rights for property near the College’s present-day location on Ithaca’s South Hill. Although the rights lapsed, due in part to the Great Depression, this visionary deed planted a seed for the institution’s future.

Williams stepped down as president in 1932, but several aspects of his vision for the College would come to be realized in later years, including accreditation and the eventual move to South Hill. Leaving Ithaca but taking his leadership and oratorical skills with him, Williams moved to Florida and became a lay preacher. He died December 28, 1971, in Miami Springs, Florida.