Erni Di Massa '65
With a five-decade, award-winning career in Hollywood as a writer, producer, and executive, Erni Di Massa ’65 still looks back on his Friends Select experience with fondness. He even acknowledges FSS and its development of young minds and attitudes for the "whole of life" on the first page of his official biography: "[Friends Select] created a unique blueprint for my life… as the most formative part of my education, it taught me about the value of people, hard work, charity, and growth."
As a student in the school’s original building, Erni remembers his art classes in the attic with Teacher Marianne, who taught him everything from oil painting to sculpting. “I loved the history of the original buildings; you could feel the presence of the former faculty and students as you climbed the steps and walked the halls. Each student today should spend a day with Dick Hoffman, who is now the school archivist, to understand the hallowed ground they walk on,” Erni shared. “I hope today’s students have a chance to digest and understand the heritage and history that surrounds them. No matter what faith they follow, the FSS experience will stay with them throughout life.”
During his Master's and Ph.D. coursework in psychology at Temple University, Erni worked for Westinghouse Syndication on The Mike Douglas Show, which was taped in Philadelphia just up the street from Friends Select at KYW-TV, 1619 Walnut Street. His experience there served as an initiation into the entertainment industry. Erni learned everything from writing cue cards to working behind the camera, eventually becoming the show's Producer. The Mike Douglas Show held the #1 spot in daytime television for eight years during his tenure and was seen by 40 million people per week. Erni has recently been featured in Daytime Revolution, a documentary film that details the five weeks in 1972 in which he worked with John Lennon and Yoko Ono when they cohosted The Mike Douglas Show. It will be released next year.
Erni has experienced success throughout his career in the entertainment industry. He worked for the NBC Television Network and launched Regis Philbin’s national career, resulting in Emmy award-winning work as a Producer; he wrote for and produced renowned actors such as Fred Astaire, Billy Crystal, and Burt Reynolds; as Senior Vice President, Programming and Development at King World, Erni managed all on-air programming for Jeopardy!, Wheel of Fortune, and Oprah, among others, and he was part of the team responsible for the creation of Inside Edition and American Journal; and he was also responsible for obtaining the rights to shows like Candid Camera and Hollywood Squares.
In the spirit of community, and in addition to supporting Friends Select, Erni finds time to work with and volunteer for organizations he strongly believes in. He has served in board roles for a variety of organizations, such as SnowballExpress.org, a non-profit that supports children and families of fallen military heroes who have died on active duty since 9/11; the LucyPetFoundation.org, dedicated to free spay/neuter and adoption of rescues; and the CelebrationOfHeroes.com, an organization honoring the men and women who helped their communities survive the COVID-19 pandemic.