From Wesleyan to Hollywood
From the moment he was offered his first production job in Los Angeles, immediately after Wesleyan, Ken Fuchs '83, P '17, knew it was meant to be. Thirty-three years later, the enthusiasm and excitement he once had towards his profession remains as strong as ever.
Ken grew up in New York but moved to Palo Alto, California when he was in the seventh grade. Although he was accepted to Stanford University and his father was an Economics professor there, Ken decided to follow in his sibling's footsteps and attend Wesleyan. His sister, Nancy, was a member of the Class of 1974 – the first class of women at Wesleyan. His brother, Fred – who is a film producer – graduated in 1977. And his sister, Paula, graduated in 1978. All three siblings possessed different personalities, interests and majors, but all had one thing in common, they each valued their time at Wesleyan.
"When I thought about Wesleyan, I figured if three people as diverse as them, could all like it so much, then there had to be a place for me," said Ken.
He started Wesleyan in the fall of 1979, and majored in Economics. However, his brother Fred introduced him to Jeanine Basinger, the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, and through this connection, Ken began taking several film classes. Eventually, he began working in theater, and realized that his economics background mixed with his production and theater experiences, could lead to a job in production after college.
Another big part of his undergraduate days at Wesleyan was his involvement in WESU sports radio. During a basketball game at Williams, the team's play-by-play announcer approached Ken and asked him to join the broadcast because of his familiarity with the players and coaching staff. The following year, they handed over the reins to Ken who served as Wesleyan's play-by-play commentator for basketball and football games, as well as some baseball and hockey contests.
"That was the kind of opportunity that just doesn't happen at a big school," said Ken. "That was a unique Wesleyan opportunity."
Sports broadcasting became his passion, and Ken worked on ways to improve his craft; taking graduate courses and workshops. He built a strong resume tape and received feedback from smaller media markets, but was already involved in TV production at the time and was loving his experience.
It proved to be the right decision, as Ken's career in Hollywood took off. In 1996, he received his first Emmy award for his work during the Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, which he described as a moment "he's never experienced before or after."
Ken has directed some of the most popular and influential projects in television. Most notable are ABC's mega-hit, "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette," which he's worked on for 15 years and has travelled to some of the world's most exotic locations, including Thailand, South Africa and the Czech Republic, to name a few.
He's also directed 15 seasons of the hit show "Family Feud," hosted by Steve Harvey, which is the No. 1 syndicated game show on television. In addition, Ken's directed two seasons of the spin-off, "Celebrity Family Feud," which has featured New England Patriots All-Pro tight end, Rob Gronkowski and his family.
Recently, Ken earned DGA and Emmy nominations for his work on ABC's powerhouse series, "Shark Tank." As director of the program for all eight seasons, Ken has led "Shark Tank" to dominant Friday night ratings, as well as three straight Emmy wins in 2014, 2015 and 2016 for Outstanding Structured Reality Program. He's developed friendships with the 'Sharks' – Mark Cuban, Kevin O'Leary, Barbara Corcoran, Daymond John, Robert Herjavec, and Lori Greiner. In addition, Ken's son Ike – a senior Placekicker/Punter on the Wesleyan football team – and teammate Devon Carrillo '17, were production assistants on the show and got to hang out with Mark Cuban; the owner of the Dallas Mavericks (NBA team).
Despite all his travels, Ken still finds time to watch his son play at his alma mater. "I would miss entire episodes just to go to games, which is a sacrifice financially, but I wouldn't give it up for the world," he says. "It's been the greatest four years of my life; the combination of being back at Wes, watching Ike play football, and connecting with my old friends. I'm really going to miss it."
Ken attributes much of his success to Wesleyan University. A career in which he's met many celebrities, and some of the best athletes in the world – Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal, Antonio Brown, Rob Gronkowski, among others. He's even caught passes from Hall of Fame quarterback, Brett Favre, during Favre's appearance on the "Tonight Show."
"At the end of the day, I'm really proud of my Wesleyan background," said Ken. "I meet a lot of Wesleyan people in Hollywood, and there's always this bond knowing that you both have this diverse background and can handle ourselves in a lot of situations. I attribute this to Wesleyan as well as being around sports. Working in production is exactly like being on a huge team."
"It's been such a pleasure being back here (at Wesleyan), and to have (Director of Athletics) Mike Whalen '83, who was my classmate, be Ike's first coach." He adds, "I've gotten to meet some amazing alumni and other parents who have been involved in Wesleyan football over the years. It's been such a blessing to have Ike here and for me to be a part of it for the last four years. GO WES!"