September 07, 2011
Donald Taffner, ‘53C, ‘89HON, who passed away early Tuesday
morning, was one of St. John’s University’s most illustrious
and accomplished alumni as well as a cherished friend and generous
benefactor. We mourn his passing and celebrate his life.
The impact that he, together with his late wife, Eleanor, has
had on this University and upon the broader community is truly
transformational. Together, they founded and built DLT Enterprises,
Limited, a global leader in the television industry for almost 50
years. The firm introduced American audiences to British
comedy hits “The Benny Hill Show” and “As Time Goes By” and
successfully translated two popular British sitcoms into smash hits
for the ABC network under the titles “Three’s Company” and
“Too Close for Comfort.” In 1986, he was honored by the Academy of
Arts and Sciences International Council with the Founders Award
Emmy, "for setting new levels of creativity in the worldwide
exchange of television programs." He was made an Honorary Officer
of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by Queen
Elizabeth in 2002 for his exceptional contribution to British film
and television in the United States.
The Taffner name is inextricably linked with St. John’s University.
Driven by Don’s great love of basketball, the couple provided the
support needed for construction of the Taffner Field House, which
serves as a home for the St. John’s men’s and women’s basketball
teams and supports intramural athletics as well. Both Eleanor and
Don were ardent fans of the men’s team, in particular, and could be
seen in the stands cheering for their beloved Red Storm through
victories and defeats. Other reminders of the Taffners’ great
generosity abound on the Queens campus: the huge clock that stands
on the walkway in front of the field house; the magnificent
gold-framed mirror that provides a focal point for the living room
of the D’Angelo Center; and the beautiful fireplace that graces the
Faculty Club in Sun Yat Sen Hall are all gifts from the
Taffners. They were as generous with their time as they were
with their resources. Eleanor was a member of the University’s
Board of Trustees and its Executive Committee for more than a
decade; Don served on the Athletics sub-committee and the Student
Affairs Committee of the Board. Together, they were longtime
members of the Loughlin Society and were inducted into the Founders
St. John’s conferred an honorary Doctor of Commercial Science upon
Don in 1989. In 2003, the fiftieth anniversary of his graduation
from St. John’s College, the University presented him with the
highest honor that can be given to an alumnus, the Medal of Honor.
In 2007, St. John’s presented the Spirit of Service Award to the
couple. The citation for that presentation said, in part, “Through
their gifts of time, talent, and resources, Don and Eleanor have
worked to make our world and this University a better place. Both
individually and as a couple, they have modeled the Vincentian
ideal of service for every member of the St. John’s community.” The
Vincentian community itself named them Vincentian Affiliates in
recognition of this extraordinary service.
I am sure that I speak for the entire University community in
extending our deepest sympathy to the Taffner family during this
difficult time. May they be comforted by the hope that, as
Eleanor and Don were inseparable in life, so are they now reunited
forever. Their legacy will continue to live at St.
John’s, which has been blessed with the privilege of having known
and loved both of them.