Imagine That

Students pitch business ideas to Disney CEO and honorary campaign chair Bob Iger '73.

Imagine this: You are an ordinary college student alone in an elevator with the CEO of one of Ameria’s largest corporations. You have 30 seconds to wow him with an original idea. If he likes the pitch he may decide to fund your project. But you don’t get to do this in the privacy of a dimly lit high-rise elevator: You’re on stage in front of 1,000 people. A camera is rolling, and you’re blinded by lights.

At the October 12 campus kickoff event for the Campaign for Ithaca College, four student finalists experienced just this challenge as they pitched an innovative project to Bob Iger ’73, CEO of the Walt Disney Company and honorary campaign chair. Theater arts major Stacey Maya ’07 served up the winning idea: offering discounted Broadway tickets to underprivileged children.

 Maya’s goal was to blend a theme of the campaign—giving for the betterment of others—with her own interests and the elements she believes make Disney unique. “Like Disney World, the theater is a magical place that lets imaginations and dreams run wild,” she says. “A program to help [underprivileged families] pay for Broadway shows can expose them to all the culture available.”

Business administration major Brianne Lewis ’09 pitched her idea for a reality TV show featuring college students competing to complete a community service project. Michael Potter ’07, also a business administration major, proposed an online movie studio where films would be edited by contributors at home. M.B.A. candidate Matthew Glazer ’06 pitched a system, a sort of add-on to highway EZ Pass technology, to pay parking meters automatically.

Judging was similar to TV shows with live audiences, where the finalist who receives the loudest applause usually wins. Iger and master of ceremonies Bob Kur ’70, former NBC newsman, now Washington Post Radio anchor, made the final decision.

Tom Torello ’87, executive director of marketing communications, helped plan the elevator speech contest to showcase students’ talents and was on the panel that picked the finalists. “It was the combination of an idea that has a public benefit—exposing underprivileged children to theater—with a corporate interest,” Torello says of Maya’s winning project. “Stacey made a very articulate and lively pitch.”

“Being a big fan of Disney, I knew Bob Iger’s name as the CEO of the company, but before the campaign I did not know he was an IC alumnus,” says Maya.

While she would love to pursue her winning idea in the future with Disney’s help, one thing Maya is sure about is that she will continue to work in some aspect of theater after she graduates.

—Alex Meril ’07