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Don Cornwell

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Information about Don Cornwell

Profile image of Don Cornwell

Profession

Category:
MediaMakers
Occupation(s):
Broadcast Chief Executive

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Salad (Kale)
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Amagansett, New York
Favorite Quote:
It is what it is.

Birthplace

Born:
1/17/1948
Birth Location:
Cushing, Oklahoma

Profession

Category:
MediaMakers
Occupation(s):
Broadcast Chief Executive

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Salad (Kale)
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Amagansett, New York
Favorite Quote:
It is what it is.

Birthplace

Born:
1/17/1948
Birth Location:
Cushing
See how Don Cornwell is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Broadcast executive and businessman W. Don Cornwell was born in Cushing, Oklahoma on January 17, 1948. Cornwell moved with his family to Tacoma, Washington, where he attended Stadium High School. After graduating from Stadium, Cornwell enrolled at Occidental College in Los Angeles in 1965. Four years later, he graduated with his B.A. degree in political science. Cornwell then graduated from Harvard Business School with his M.B.A. degree in 1971.

Cornwell was first hired by Goldman, Sachs & Co. in New York in 1971. By 1980, he was promoted to chief operating officer of the Goldman Sachs’ corporate finance department of the investment banking division. In 1988, Cornwell left the securities firm to found Granite Broadcasting Corporation. In his twenty-one years as the company’s chairman and chief executive officer, the corporation purchased fifteen television stations to become the largest African American-controlled television broadcast company in America. At its peak, Granite Broadcasting generated $169 million in revenue. From 1991 through 2006, Granite was publicly owned with common stock listed on NASDAQ and several issues of debt registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Granite Broadcasting Corporation filed for voluntary reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code in December 2006 and emerged from its restructuring in June 2007. Cornwell stepped down as the company chairman and CEO in 2009.

Cornwell has received numerous honors and corporation directorships throughout his career including serving on the boards of Pfizer, Inc., Avon Products, Inc., American International Group, Inc. and CVS-Caremark Corporation. He is a trustee of Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York. Cornwell was formerly on the board of directors of the Wallace Foundation, the Hershey Trust Company and Milton Hershey School, the New York University Medical Center and the Telecommunications Development Fund. Cornwell’s company, Granite Broadcasting, was named Company of the Year by Black Enterprise. In 1996, he was honored as the Alumnus of the Year by Occidental College; and in 1999, he was the recipient of the Alumni Achievement Award from Harvard Business School. Cornwell is married to Sandra Williams-Cornwell and has two adult children, K. Don Cornwell and Samantha Cornwell.

W. Don Cornwell was interviewed by the The HistoryMakers on May 17, 2012.

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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Don Cornwell's interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Don Cornwell lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Don Cornwell talks about his mother's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Don Cornwell talks about his grandparents' occupations
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Don Cornwell describes the town where he was born, Cushing, Oklahoma
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Don Cornwell talks about his mother's history
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Don Cornwell talks about his mother's education
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Don Cornwell discusses Oklahoma's role in the Civil Rights Movement
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Don Cornwell talks about his father
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Don Cornwell talks about his father's experiences in World War II and his father's PTSD
  • Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Don Cornwell talks about his father's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Don Cornwell talks about his father's aspirations and occupation as a barber
  • Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Don Cornwell talks about how his parents met
  • Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Don Cornwell shares the story of how his family moved from Oklahoma to the state of Washington
  • Tape: 1 Story: 15 - Don Cornwell talks about his maternal grandparents' education
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Don Cornwell talks about his parents' separation and his father's high standards for education
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Don Cornwell talks about his siblings
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Don Cornwell describes his likeness to his parents
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Don Cornwell describes his earliest childhood memory
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Don Cornwell talks about growing up in Tacoma, Washington
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Don Cornwell describes the sights, sounds, and smells of growing up
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Don Cornwell describes the social life of Tacoma, Washington
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Don Cornwell talks about his friends in Tacoma, including Bob Moore
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Don Cornwell talks about not being able to participate in sports as a child due to a heart defect
  • Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Don Cornwell talks about his grandmother's belief in the importance of naps
  • Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Don Cornwell talks about sports in high school
  • Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Don Cornwell talks about elementary school and high school
  • Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Don Cornwell talks about Stadium High School and Puget Sound
  • Tape: 2 Story: 14 - Don Cornwell remembers learning to read at an early age and an influential high school teacher
  • Tape: 2 Story: 15 - Don Cornwell talks about watching TV when he was growing up
  • Tape: 2 Story: 16 - Don Cornwell discusses the role of church in his childhood
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Don Cornwell talks about segregation in Tacoma, Washington
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Don Cornwell discusses the African American community in Tacoma, Washington
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Don Cornwell talks about his mentors in middle school
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Don Cornwell talks about his aspirations and heroes in high school
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Don Cornwell talks about the Civil Rights Movement and Malcolm X's assassination
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Don Cornwell talks about his mother's civic activities
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Don Cornwell talks about the 1962 Seattle World's Fair
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Don Cornwell remembers the 1963 March on Washington
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Don Cornwell talks about African American newspapers in Tacoma
  • Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Don Cornwell talks about his favorite subjects in high school
  • Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Don Cornwell talks about his favorite teachers in high school
  • Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Don Cornwell talks about choosing a college
  • Tape: 3 Story: 13 - Don Cornwell talks about some of his activities in high school
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Don Cornwell talks about being senior class president and his decision to attend Occidental College
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Don Cornwell talks about Occidental College
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Don Cornwell describes Occidental College as moderately conservative
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Don Cornwell talks about the African American student organizations at Occidental College
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Don Cornwell talks about the Black Student Association and the African American community in LA
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Don Cornwell talks about his role in the Black Student Association and in student government
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Don Cornwell talks about the professors who influenced him at Occidental College, pt. 1
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Don Cornwell talks about the professors who influenced him at Occidental College, pt. 2
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Don Cornwell talks about changing his focus from law to business
  • Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Don Cornwell talks about the Black Panthers and Ron Karenga's US Organization in Los Angeles
  • Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Don Cornwell talks about meeting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and his assassination
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Don Cornwell discusses Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination and the Watts riots
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Don Cornwell talks about his experiences with the Los Angeles police force
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Don Cornwell talks about black empowerment and the Black Panther shootings in 1969
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Don Cornwell talks about going to Harvard Business School, pt. 1
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Don Cornwell talks about going to Harvard Business School, pt. 2
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Don Cornwell talks about the discrimination faced by his class at Harvard Business School
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Don Cornwell talks about the professors at Harvard Business School, pt. 1
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Don Cornwell talks about the professors at Harvard Business School, pt. 2
  • Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Don Cornwell talks about his classmates at Harvard Business School
  • Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Don Cornwell talks about the role that Occidental College played in his preparation for Harvard
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Don Cornwell describes how integrated environments can foster skills development
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Don Cornwell talks about working at Goldman Sachs
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Don Cornwell talks about the dissolution of his marriage and his subsequent promotion at Goldman Sachs
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Don Cornwell discusses his tenure at Goldman Sachs as well as his boss and mentor at the firm, Peter Sacerdote
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Don Cornwell talks about leaving Goldman Sachs and pursuing a new venture in broadcasting and television station ownership
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Don Cornwell talks about how minority tax certificates encouraged his start in television station ownership
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Don Cornwell talks about buying his first two TV stations
  • Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Don Cornwell talks about the successful start of his TV stations
  • Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Don Cornwell discusses his management approach in broadcasting
  • Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Don Cornwell discusses taking his company, Granite Broadcasting, public in 1991
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Don Cornwell talks about the stations Granite Broadcasting purchased after going public in 1991
  • Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Don Cornwell talks about competing with Rupert Murdoch for a station in Austin, Texas
  • Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Don Cornwell talks about rebuilding a local station in Austin, Texas
  • Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Don Cornwell reflects on one of the biggest mistakes of his career and its impact on Granite Broadcasting
  • Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Don Cornwell discusses how his company's inexperience and financial situation affected its growth
  • Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Don Cornwell talks about partnering with NBC
  • Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Don Cornwell talks about selling a station to NBC and the sale's negative impact on Granite Broadcasting
  • Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Don Cornwell talks about what he did to try to ameliorate Granite Broadcasting's financial situation
  • Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Don Cornwell recalls filing for bankruptcy and the impact of the financial crisis
  • Tape: 7 Story: 10 - Don Cornwell talks about what he would do differently about Granite Broadcasting
  • Tape: 7 Story: 11 - Don Cornwell shares advice for young entrepreneurs
  • Tape: 7 Story: 12 - Don Cornwell describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community today
  • Tape: 7 Story: 13 - Don Cornwell reflects upon his legacy
  • Tape: 7 Story: 14 - Don Cornwell talks about how he would like to be remembered