Take Five with Eli Lehrer ’99



Eli Lehrer ’99 is executive VP and general manager of the A+E Network’s HISTORY, overseeing the development, creation and execution of the channel’s scripted and unscripted programming. He assumed the role in 2017; prior to that, Lehrer was head of non-fiction programming at Lifetime, where he executive produced several hit series including The Rap Game, Bring It!, True Tori and the Little Women franchise, and oversaw Project Runway and assorted spin-offs. Lehrer was formerly head of development at Bravo, where he developed hits such as Vanderpump Rules, Below Deck, Southern Charm, The Real Housewives of New Jersey, The Shahs of Sunset, The Millionaire Matchmaker and Watch What Happens: Live. He also worked at Artists Management Group as an assistant to Michael Ovitz and at ABC News as an assistant to George Stephanopoulos ’82. Lehrer lives in Los Angeles with his wife and their three children.

What were you like when you arrived at Columbia?

I actually fell in love with Columbia, and New York City, when I attended a summer program at the University after my junior year of high school. Those four weeks were my first real taste of independence and the experience was transformative. Even though I had grown up in L.A., I was a fairly sheltered 16-year-old, and to suddenly be exposed to everything the city had to offer — the culture, the food, the energy, the slight sense of menace that New York still had then — was nothing less than mind-blowing, and I immediately decided that that’s where I wanted to spend my college years. So when I arrived on campus a year later, I already had some sense of what I had signed on for, and I couldn’t have been more excited.

What do you remember about your first-year living situation?

I lived in a single on John Jay 7. I spent the first few weeks trying to find friends, or at least people to share meals with. That all changed a month into the school year when I was walking down the hall to my room and heard someone blasting Bruce Springsteen. (I was a Springsteen obsessive, but didn’t know a single other person my age who loved him, or even liked him, since this was the mid-1990s, and he was distinctly uncool in that cultural moment.) The door of that dorm room was open and I stuck my head in and met a kindred spirit, Reed Seerman ’99, maybe the only other 18-year-old on the Upper West Side who, in 1995, could talk about Springsteen lyrics and bootlegs with the same passion I could. To say we felt an immediate connection would be an understatement, and that friendship informed my entire college experience. What an incredible coincidence, and gift, that these two kids with this slightly odd shared passion ended up four doors down from each other; I can’t imagine what college would have been like for me if that hadn’t been the case.

What Core class or experience do you most remember, and why?

This one is easy — meeting my future wife, Sari Globerman BC’99, in CC. In what I can only describe as an act of fate, she walked into the second class of the semester and I felt compelled to approach her, in a way I had never felt compelled to approach anyone else in my life to that point. I offered her my notes from the first class, not something I would normally have done, and soon found out that she was a Barnard student who had fought her way into being able to take the class, which only added to my intrigue. To make a now–20-year story short, I spent the next year or so convincing her to leave her boyfriend; following the spark I first felt in that classroom is the best decision I’ve ever made. The CC class was pretty great too.

Did you have a favorite spot on campus, and what did you like about it?

I’d be lying if I said I had a favorite corner in Butler or a specific classroom or building that I have a particular affinity for. All of my best memories at the school are attached to people and experiences and specific moments, so they cover a million different places around campus and across the city. As a slightly random aside, I am often struck by how few photographs I have from the entirety of my college experience — 10? Maybe 20? I was at the College in what feels like an in-between period for technology where analog cameras were pretty out of vogue and digital cameras were not quite born, so I have almost zero documentation of all of these amazing memories of my time there.

What, if anything, about your College experience would you do over?

My only regret is that I didn’t take a semester abroad. The truth is, I enjoyed Columbia so much, and loved being in New York City so much, that I had the hubris, or delusion, to think that there’s no city in the world better or more interesting than New York, so why would I want to give up any of my time here? (I’m also terrible at languages, so that didn’t help either.) Obviously, with the perspective that time brings, I would have been incredibly well-served to expand my horizons beyond Los Angeles and New York and take advantage of the opportunity to experience living in an entirely new context, but I was happy and change-averse and so I missed out. Otherwise, I would not change a single thing (aside from my sophomore year housing).