1956 Horatio Alger Award Winner
"Be loyal to those who try to help you."
Born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, Gustav Eyssell worked as a teenager for the owner of a local movie theater. These were the glory days of silent movies, and the theater provided the audience of 1,200 with live entertainment as well as movies accompanied by music. Before long, Eyssell moved up the ladder and became the theater's assistant manager. When he was 19, Eyssell became treasurer of all the Newman theaters in Kansas City.
After Newman sold his theaters to Paramount in 1925 and became director of the Los Angeles Paramount theaters, he appointed Eyssell manager of the Million Dollar Theater in Los Angeles. Five years later, Eyssel became district manager in the Texas division of the Paramount Publix Theater circuit. These theaters included vaudeville entertainment. Eventually, Eyssell supervised Paramount theaters in New York City.
In January 1933, RKO asked Eyssell to join the New Radio City Music Hall as assistant managing director. One month later, RKO went into bankruptcy, and the Radio City Music Hall was taken over by Rockefeller Center. By 1942, Eyssell was named president of Radio City Music Hall and also a director of Rockefeller Center. He served as president of Rockefeller Center from 1951, succeeding Nelson Rockefeller, until his retirement in 1971. Under his presidency, Rockefeller Center expanded to include many skyscrapers well-known today such as Time-Warner. Exxon, Sperry Rand, and McGraw-Hill, as well as the New York Hilton.
Another Rockefeller family development, Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, also interested Eyssell. In 1945, he was appointed a trustee of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation-a position he held for the next 25 years. He retired fully in 1971.* Deceased