Hit Producer

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Channing Chase '61
Bruce Cramer/Snavely Associates

She's known as one of the university's most successful entrepreneurs and leading philanthropists. But Marcy Peterson Carsey '66 credits her working-class background—her father was a Massachusetts shipyard worker and her mother a bank secretary who left to start a family—for much of her success. As co-founder of the production company behind hit sitcoms like "The Cosby Show" and "Roseanne," Carsey wanted to create TV shows that reflected the concerns of real-life families—families that looked a good deal like her own.

"A lot of what we did was about couples, relationships, parenting, kids, how life is lived day to day," Carsey says of her partnership with Tom Werner, with whom she co-founded Carsey-Werner Productions. "You want to get into family dynamics in as realistic a way as possible."

Family has always been at the center of Carsey's work. Her career took off in 1974, when Michael Eisner hired her at ABC. She warned him she was pregnant with her first child, but all he wanted to know was whether she planned to come back. "It was a very welcoming period for women," she says. "ABC was realizing that more women than men watch television and sitcoms, so they'd better damn well have some women making those programming decisions."

Carsey rose to senior vice president of prime-time programming before leaving ABC in 1980. She lured Werner away from the company two years later, and the duo went on to rack up a slew of hits, from "Roseanne" and "The Cosby Show" to "That '70s Show," "Cybill," and "3rd Rock from the Sun."

Widely regarded as one of the most powerful women in show business, Carsey, who majored in English at UNH, has used her success to help others—in large part through gifts to her alma mater. In 2002, she gave the university $7.5 million to establish the Carsey Institute, which conducts research on vulnerable children and families. Last year, she pledged an additional $20 million to support the foundation of the Carsey School of Public Policy at the university. For Carsey, it all comes back to her roots: "Being raised in a blue-collar situation makes you not afraid of getting money or losing money," she says, "because money is just for a roof over your head and food on the table—and for giving to others who need help."

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