By Tess Skoller
What is the true value of a liberal arts education? More specifically, what is the value of a Union College education? Peter Schlessel ‘83 would say it’s the foundation where he discovered ambition on the academic level.
“Union for me was the first time I actually learned how to learn,” he said. “It was the beginning of understanding how to be dedicated to having fun and dedicated to achieving.”
Schlessel graduated Union as a Psychology major and went on to the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Shortly after graduating from law school, he went to work at Simpson, Thacher, & Ampersand, a Wall Street law firm. However, Schlessel had lost the ambition that he had found at Union and wanted something that aligned better with his interests. He found himself working at music and entertainment law firms as well as a few other entertainment companies.
“The job I liked the most was RCA/Columbia pictures,” Schlessel noted. “I was working there at a time when video was a relatively new business.” Through this job, he began to learn how to get a product into a distribution company and get it back out to the consumer. These skills were not too far removed from courses he took at Union.
Schlessel commented, “Union gave me a good foundation to analyze.” As a Psychology major, the things he learned in behavioral, industrial and abnormal psychology helped him learn what people would say yes to that won’t cost him money or cause aggravation.
“Being a psych major made me get to this kind of place and it was important in learning my approach [in business],” he said.
Schlessel is currently the CEO of FilmDistrict, an independent film acquisition, distribution, production and financing company founded in September 2010. FilmDistrict has been behind blockbusters such as District 9, Soul Surfer, Insidious, and, most recently, Looper.