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Talking Tufts with Steve Tisch

Published: Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 08:10


The ceremony to dedicate the new Steve Tisch Sports and Fitness Center, held Monday afternoon in Chase Gym, featured many of Tufts’ power players. Sitting in the audience were former Chairman of the Board of Trustees Nathan Gantcher and current Chairman Jim Stern. Steve’s brother and Tisch College donor, Jonathan, was there, as was Dan Kraft, president of the group that owns the New England Patriots. Former University President Larry Bacow and current University President Anthony Monaco were both in attendance as well.     

And then there was Steve Tisch (LA ’71) himself. Upon taking the podium to address the suit-wearing crowd, Tisch began: “There’s a saying that if you remember the ’60s, you weren’t really there.” 

A few minutes later, the film producer and New York Giants owner again drew laughs, playfully suggesting a plaque be placed in the fitness center’s Kraft Family Atrium with the scores of the Giants’ two recent Super Bowl victories over the Patriots.

Once Tisch completed his remarks, the audience was led into the Kraft Atrium by the Tufts cheerleaders, where about 100 athletes, a handful of non-athletes simply there to work out, and the pep band, were waiting. When Tisch walked in, the crowd cheered, eight students spelled out “T-H-A-N-K Y-O-U” with signs, and the band played “All-Star,” by Smash Mouth. 

Before all the fanfare, and before even having seen the beautiful new space inscribed with his name, Tisch sat down with the Daily in Ballou Hall to reflect on his time at Tufts, his connection to the school since and the one thing he has that no one else does.


Tufts Daily: What’s it like being back at Tufts?

Steve Tisch: I think I’ve been here in the last five or six years, but I remember when I was here a few years ago, the weather was terrible, and it certainly wasn’t for an event as wonderful as this one today. The campus looks amazing. There’s a lot that looks new, and from my perspective there’s also a lot that was the same when I walked on campus in September of 1967. It’s hard for me to say that, but I like the fact that there’s still so many familiar buildings and streets. The students are a lot younger, but it’s -- it’s a great campus, it’s a great school. 

TD: Have you seen the new gym yet?

ST: I haven’t, I’ve only seen pictures. I’m very anxious to see it. From what I’ve been told, the feedback from the students, and the people involved in the gym -- the administration of the gym, the trainers -- they love it. That’s fantastic to be involved in something that is being used so productively to the benefit of so many students.

TD: At what point did you decide to make this donation, and why did you specifically decide to donate a new athletics center?

ST: It had been an issue that I’d been thinking about for a number of years. When I found myself, eight years ago after my father passed away, getting much more involved with the New York Giants and becoming the team’s chairman, it seemed like it was finally an opportunity to connect the dots between my involvement in professional sports and my alma mater. 

I did some due diligence, and there seemed to be a real need ... that it should be in the area of sports, specifically with a new facility. Eight years later, I’m thrilled that today is the formal dedication.

TD: Tell us about your undergraduate experience at Tufts.

ST:  [cont.] Because it was [a] pretty turbulent time. It was an amazing time. 

I’m of that generation that really thought and believed that we were gonna change the world, and I do believe to some extent we did. I’ve got teenagers and kids in their twenties, and my older kids didn’t have that experience, I’m not sure my younger kids will, and I’m not sure [the current college generation] will. It was unique, it was special, and it was totally memorable.  

TD: What specific parts of your time at Tufts stand out in your mind? What did you do here to start pursuing a career in filmmaking?  

ST: I think the first film course I took was probably in 1970, and it wasn’t formally part of the Tufts curriculum. It was more of an experimental film course. But the four years I was here, the school did encourage students to create their own major — I believe it was called “The College Within,” which for me was a wonderful program. 

I was able to sort of stitch together, with a lot of encouragement and help from Sol Gittleman, an area of interest that was almost personally designed. It included film, literature, working very closely with Dr. Gittleman and all of the courses he was teaching. He was kind of my rabbi on campus, and the four years I spent with him as a mentor were fantastic.

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