Former HBO CEO leads Lubin roundtable discussion


Ana Donner Gonzalez

Students, faculty and staff at Lubin's roundtable event, featuring former HBO chairman and CEO and Pace alumnus Bill Nelson.

Stefano Ausenda, Contributing Editor

How do you handle fear? What are people within the media industry looking for in future candidates? If you could go back to the very beginning of your career, what is one thing that you would tell yourself?

Pace University students, faculty and staff asked these questions and many more on Wednesday, February 19, at Lubin’s roundtable event at the Goldstein academic center.

The roundtable discussion was led by former HBO chairman and CEO Bill Nelson. Nelson received both his BBA and MBA in accounting from Pace, and is a Vietnam veteran. A couple of students from the Manhattan campus even tuned into the event via webcam.

Before addressing questions from attendees, Nelson told them a little bit about his academic and professional journey, from halting his career at Pace to serve in combat in Vietnam, to graduating from the university’s first-ever BBA/MBA class, to helping run one of the world’s biggest media companies.

Of course, Nelson did not just graduate from Pace and become CEO right away. His career began at Ernst & Young (Ernst & Ernst at the time) and then at Time, Inc. While at Time, Inc, one of the controllers at HBO asked him to join him in his department. At HBO, he went from assistant controller to controller, to CFO, to CEO for five years. After retiring from that position, Nelson now spends his time getting involved with organizations that help out with Veterans’ causes.

Many things were discussed and touched upon during the event, one being the importance of staying alert and abreast of the industry that students are involved in. To do this, Nelson used to read several newspapers every morning while on the train to work, starting with the business sections.

“Reading those sections . . . you learn what’s going on and you’re curious because we are all curious. And so you pursue even more of it, and you become aware of where [the industry you’re working in] as well as other industries, are going,” he said.

Another thing that he advised students on was the importance of listening to others and being a team player, even if you may disagree with their vision.

“[When everyone contributes], several things happen; everyone has ownership of that company’s thrust, everyone was heard, and they all support where [the company] is going,” he explained.

Nelson also advised students on how to get started and move themselves forward within their careers. According to him, one of the most important factors is the way that people conduct themselves.

“[To go far in your career], you need to make yourself available and let the people who you work with know that you’re not leaving at 5:00 every night, I’m here until the mission is done,” he said. “In the beginning, it is all about your energy, your commitment level, and your business disposition towards everyone else. Also, do not hesitate to ask for help.”

Ileana Bautista is a Development Associate for Lubin, who along with others, helped plan the event. She was very pleased with the student turnout at the event.

“From the organizer point of view, I think that a lot of students showed up was a very good thing,” Bautista said. “[I hope that the attendees got] advice for whatever their future holds. I hope that they asked some questions that they had been wondering and that can help them once they graduate.”

Lubin’s next roundtable event will be Wednesday, March 4 during common hour, and will feature Pace alum Michael Gilfeather, President and CEO of Orange Bank & Trust Company.