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Penn State gets $30M boost from man behind 'NCIS,' 'Magnum P.I.'

| Friday, April 21, 2017, 1:00 p.m.
Penn State University
Television producer and series creator Donal Bellisario (Penn State '61) provided the commencement address at the College of Communications spring graduation ceremony May 7, 2016. Bellisario has created some of televisions most popular series including Magnum P.I., Quantum Leap, and NCIS.

Award-winning television writer, producer and director Donald P. Bellisario made the jump to Hollywood from a Washington County village cloaked in smoke from coke ovens, via Penn State's College of Communications.

Now Bellisario, 81, a Cokeburg native, is giving a $30 million gift to the school that will now be known as the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications.

Penn State officials on Friday announced the gift, one of the five largest in the university's history. Marie Hardin, dean of the college of communications, predicted the gift and the Bellisario name — “NCIS,” “Magnum PI” and “JAG” are among his TV credits — will change the playing field at the college. His gift will support students and staff as well as the creation of a state-of-the-art media center.

“Any college in the country would covet this gift. There are going to be students who want to write for film and television. And because of Don's name, they will want to come here,” Hardin said.

Bellisario earned a degree in journalism after a stint in the Marine Corps. He worked in advertising before his career in film and TV.

He said the new investment in technology and innovation his gift will help underwrite should give students a leg up in the industry.

Belisario hopes the scholarships he and his wife Vivienne have underwritten will allow others with big dreams in small towns like Cokeburg to take advantage of Penn State.

“I've always been a big fan of Penn State. I think it was seminal in my career. ... I'm thinking there is going to be somebody who is going to come in here and exceed what I've been able to accomplish. That's why you do this,” he said.

Debra Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. She can be reached at 412-320-7996, derdley@tribweb.com or via Twitter @deberdley_trib

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