NBC Universal executive Daniel Wolfe ’84 came from California to spend two fall days on campus as the University of Mary Washington’s 2014-15 executive-in-residence.
In October, Wolfe spoke with students and community leaders about the business of moviemaking, a subject he knows well. As executive vice president of NBC Universal’s Worldwide Creative Operations, he oversees a staff of more than 100 who provide marketing support for Universal productions.
At UMW, he urged audience members to be innovative in their businesses and careers. “Maintaining the status quo is not a strategy,” he said. Businesses can either hold onto their success model until it becomes irrelevant or continuously look to change and innovate.
“The biggest thing is: Are we listening to our consumer? The ability to ask questions, the ability to let your guard down and say ‘let me ask what would be a better way to do this’ is so important for any business and for any individual to keep growing,” Wolfe said.
After graduating from Mary Washington, Wolfe moved back to his parents’ home in Virginia Beach. A few years later, his college roommate, a movie fanatic, died in a car accident. That got Wolfe thinking about his passions and purpose.
“The ability to ask questions, the ability to let your guard down and say ‘let me ask what would be a better way to do this’ is so important.” — Daniel Wolfe
He moved to Boston to earn a master’s degree in communication industries management from Emerson College before heading to Los Angeles. In his long career at Universal Pictures, Wolfe has been involved in more than 400 films, including Oscar Best Picture winners Schindler’s List, Shakespeare in Love, Gladiator, and A Beautiful Mind. He previously worked for New Line Cinema and Orion Pictures.
With all his success, Wolfe still credits his time at Mary Washington for the balance he is able to keep in the Hollywood industry. College is “where you build your foundation,” he said. “And I think that is what has really served me well.”