By Owen Smith
George Bodenheimer ‘80 is no stranger to success. Starting as a lowly mailroom laborer, Bodenheimer worked his way up the ladder of ESPN to eventually become the president of the company, holding that position from 1998 to 2011. He now serves on the Denison Board of Trustees.
Bodenheimer spoke this past Thursday to students in the All-America room.
Bodenheimer outlined four keys to his success: integrity, relationships, priorities and leadership. Above all, he said to be nice.
“It doesn’t cost you anything,” Bodenheimer said. This free bit of advice stuck with baseball player Brandon Morgan ‘16.
“It makes sense,” Morgan said. “Be nice to people. It’s really simple to be nice but we don’t see that happen a lot anymore, especially in corporate America.”
Bodenheimer told of how he always strove to be a good person to the people he worked with, from the bottom to the top of ESPN.
“It helped me in the mailroom,” Bodenheimer said. “I had to get lunch for security guards, I shoveled snow and drove people to the airport. When I was promoted I believe they respected me because of that.”
Bodenheimer stressed that family should come first, from your work family to your family at home. He pointed out his niece, Emily Pugliese ’17, who came to support him. He told the crowd that her support for him was what he had come to expect out of his family and the ones at ESPN. If people were hurt or sick, such as Stuart Scott, who battled with cancer, a family needs to have each other’s backs. Pugliese said that Uncle George embodies the qualities he preaches.
“He loves spending time with his family, and is actually very funny,” said Pugliese said. “He always asks about everything you’ve been up to and always has a very calm and cool demeanor.”
Another sticking point for Bodenheimer was to be accountable and manage your priorities.
“I’m a compulsive notetaker,” Bodenheimer said. “I used this at ESPN. I would encourage everyone submit suggestions, and would receive between 500-800 a year. We would look at them, narrow it down to three, and give everyone back a notecard with the three priorities that we were trying to change for the year.”
As far as the future of ESPN and sports media as a whole, Bodenheimer believes the desire to watch sports live has kept the industry growing. The accessibility continues to improve with the new frontier of smart phones and tablets. Bodenheimer noted that great leaders are able to adapt to the changes in the field in which they work.
“What separates good teams from one another is great coaches and leadership,” said Bodenheimer said. “You have to be able to change with the industry and bring new things to the table. I think you have 100 days to make a change when you become the boss. Just be confident, speak up, go out on a limb and take risks!.”
Bodenheimer is Denison’s only Varsity D-Team member who that did not make a basket, score a touchdown, or even suit up for a game.
“It’s the family curse,” said Pugliese said, “We hit 16 then lose all athletic ability.”
Luckily for Bodenheimer, he made it top of the sports world, and he did not have to pick up a ball, bat or bike to do it.
Photo Courtesy of Owen Smith