Emmy Award-Winning Producer Donates $1 Million to CSUN for New Screening Room
Emmy Award-winning television writer and producer Alan Armer, a retired CSUN professor, has donated $1 million to Cal State Northridge for a new screening room.
Armer, who taught in the university's Radio-Television-Film Department for nearly 20 years, said he chose to make the gift to the university in large part because of the fun he had while teaching at CSUN.
"I was lucky, I taught fun classes like writing and directing. Every year there were new movies and television shows to talk about, stuff the students were interested in," Armer said. "I really enjoyed the students, they were very much alive. Each day I went to class it was like looking in a mirror, they would see themselves - their excitement for what we were doing - reflected in me and I would see reflections of me in them."
The Alan and Elaine Armer Irrevocable Charitable Remainder Trust will pay for a new 120-seat screening room in the new College of Arts, Media, and Communication Building, currently under construction and designed by world-renowned architect Robert A.M. Stern. The screening room will be named for Armer and his wife, Elaine.
The gift was announced last week at the launching of the university's new capital initiative, CSUN Rising, which has a goal of raising $10 million to restore and upgrade the university's teaching facilities, instructional technology, laboratory equipment and instructional furnishings.
Faye Ainsworth, director of development for the college, said Armer's gift was particularly significant because it is the largest the university has ever received from a faculty member.
William Toutant, interim dean for the College of Arts, Media, and Communication, said Armer's gift was greatly appreciated by the students, faculty and staff in his college.
"It is especially meaningful that a faculty member has chosen to give back to his department in such an eloquent way," Toutant said. "It also underscores the importance of the campus community in the capital initiative."
Armer, who lives on the west side of Los Angeles, received his bachelor's degree in speech and drama from Stanford University and a master's in theatre arts from UCLA.
He started his entertainment career at a radio station in San Jose where he worked as an announcer for about a year.
Armer left San Jose in hopes of securing a radio announcing job in Los Angeles, which was emerging as the mecca for that medium. Unable "to even get arrested," Armer said he eventually took at job with an advertising agency that specialized in working with a new form of communication technology, television.
Armer wrote, acted in, directed, narrated and edited television commercials. "It was a terrible agency where everybody screamed at everybody else, but at least I learned about television," he said.
Armer learned so much that he and a friend were able to create their own television show, Lights, Camera, Action, which aired on the local NBC affiliate for three years. He was eventually hired by the station as a manager and then director.
From there, he went on to Fox, where he wrote, produced and directed several television programs, including My Friend Flicka. He also produced Broken Arrow at ABC.
Armer eventually joined Quinn Martin Productions, where he wrote and produced The Fugitive (for which he was nominated twice for an Emmy), The Invaders and the first year of Cannon. The Fugitive was inducted this week by the Directors' Guild of America into its Hall of Fame.
Armer went on to become executive producer for the Desilu production of The Untouchables, for which he was nominated for an Emmy three times, and won once. He also wrote for the Universal production of The Name of the Game.
After a long career in the entertainment industry, with occasional forays into lecturing at Stanford and USC, Armer joined CSUN's Radio-Telelvsion-Film Department in 1980.
"I guess I was suffering burnout at the time," Armer said of his transition from television to teaching. "Nearly everything I had worked on had been successful and I had won a lot of awards but I just wasn't happy any more. My wife asked me why I kept doing it."
Armer said about that time he received a call from for the chair of CSUN's Radio-Television-Film Department.
"He asked me if I wanted to teach a writing class. I asked him 'when do I start?' And he said 'How about the day after tomorrow?'" Armer said. "I loved it. It was great fun and the kids were just wonderful, they were sharp and interested."
He started out teaching on a part-time basis, but eventually went full time before becoming a full professor at the university.
Armer retired last year and now spends his time writing poetry and serving as a consultant for people writing screenplays, though he admits he misses working with students on occasion.
"I enjoyed every minute I spent working with those kids," he said.
Public Affairs Offices/Campus News