Bellisario: Bonded by the Blue & White

What do TV shows “JAG,” “Magnum, P.I.,” “Quantum Leap,” and “NCIS” all have in common? You guessed it: Penn State.

More specifically, they were all created and produced by Executive Producer Donald P. Bellisario, who completed his undergraduate degree in Journalism at Penn State, class of 1961. Bellisario was honored in 2001 as a Distinguished Alumnus, which is the highest honor given to a graduate whose “personal lives, professional achievements, and community service exemplify the objectives of their alma mater.”

Bellisario's star on the Walk of Fame, unveiled March 2004.

Bellisario, 75, is a Pennsylvania native who grew up in Cokeburg, Pa., which he described as a “hardscrabble western Pennsylvania coal mining town,” in a Penn State Live article from October 2, 2006. When he was 20 he enlisted in the Marine Corps for four years, where he obtained the rank of Sergeant and received the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal. After leaving the Corps, he attended Penn State where he obtained his degree while caring for two of his four children.

He then went to work as a copywriter before taking a chance on his career and moving to Hollywood to become a story editor for the show “Baa Baa Black Sheep,” which aired from 1976 to 1978. After five episodes he was promoted to producer, and was then hired as a supervising producer for the show “Battlestar Galactica.” During this time he started to develop several of his own hit series, the first of which was “Magnum, P.I.”

For all his fame and success, this TV producer with his very own Hollywood Star has not forgotten dear old State. Asides from being honored as a Distinguished Alumnus, Bellisario endowed a $1 million Trustee Matching Scholarship to the College of Communications in 2006, a scholarship that creates $100,000 a year in scholarship money. He also donated collections of his television works for Penn State students to study. Housed in the Carnegie building, they include over 200 episodes of “JAG” and “NCIS”, with scripts and either a VHS or DVD for each.

To learn more about this PSU alum, visit his page here, or check out the Penn State Live article.


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