TV exec speaks at Academy's Career Day

January 27, 1997


Staff Writer, Waynesboro

MERCERSBURG, Pa. - To get to the top, you have to start at the bottom.

That was among the advice a 1985 alumnus who knows gave to hundreds of Mercersburg Academy students Monday morning in Boone Hall.

Michael Davies, 30, senior vice president of programming for Buena Vista Productions, a television division of Walt Disney and ABC, returned to his alma mater as key speaker for the school's career day.

Davies joined several other alumni who introduced 32 different careers to the students at the event sponsored by the Mercersburg Alumni Council.


A native of Edinburgh, Scotland, Davies told the audience in his thick accent that his six months at Mercersburg Academy changed his life because it's where he fell in love with American television.

Before attending the academy as part of a scholarship program, Davies said, he considered becoming an investment banker, a lawyer, or an actor.

"I had no idea what I wanted to do," Davies said. "But it's fine not to know. Even if you're absolutely positive you know what you're going to do, keep your options open."

Television is "a glamorous business with tremendous rewards," Davies said, but added that it takes hard work and sacrifice to be successful. He told the students that they can't rely on an "old-fashioned liberal arts degree" as the ticket to success.

"You have to find a way to separate yourselves in the job market," he said.

Davies said he started out making tea and doing odd jobs for his first boss. After college at the University of Edinburgh, Davies moved to Florida, where he got a job as a production assistant for Nickelodeon. He's also worked for MTV and was a writer for the television game show, "Jeopardy!"

"Go to college, read a lot of books, learn a little about everything and watch a lot of quality television," Davies said. "Then go to Hollywood or New York and get a job starting right at the bottom."

Even with that advice, Davies said, there are no guarantees since there are few jobs in the highly competitive field.

With the advancement of technology, Davies predicts television will become totally integrated with telephones and computers to become a choice-based system which will allow viewers to tailor their programs.

"I think there will be opportunities in fields we can't even dream of," he said.

Davies shared a list of 10 rules for success which he said he gathered from his own observations and experiences in life. But at the end, Davies told the students it's up to them.

"You have to listen to what you want to do. Follow your heart," he said.

In addition to television, other careers represented on career day included: Hotel and restaurant management, engineering, public relations, military, medicine, aviation, marketing, computer science and business.

Mercersburg Academy is a co-educational day and boarding school.

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