Tom Ashley ’60 knows what “Mad Men” was all about. During the 1960s and 70s, he lived the life of a New York ad men. After earning a degree from Georgetown University in foreign management, he did audience research for CBS, sold advertising for ABC and teamed up with Ted Turner to run CNN’s advertising sales department when the network was getting off the ground.
Ashley, who lives in New York City, formed his own production company, Total Video Inc. For most of the 90s he lived in London and worked all over Europe. Somewhere in between Ashley worked for Academy Award-winning costume designer Edith Head and created three short television series focusing on this day in history, sports and Hollywood. Earlier this year, he completed a documentary on the Empire State Building.
He has rubbed elbows with the likes of John Wayne, Frank Sinatra, Bobby and Teddy Kennedy, Muhammad Ali and a few presidents. Ashley’s famous father-in-law was St. Louis Cardinal’s legend and baseball Hall-of-Famer Stan “The Man” Musial. Destiny put him in the right place when Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., made his “I have a Dream” speech in Washington, D.C., and when Secretariat won the Kentucky Derby. He watched the Twin Towers topple from his Greenwich Village apartment on 9/11. “Trying to comment on that would read like a cliché,” Ashley says, adding that it awakened him to the idea that safety is far from a given.
“Over the years, I‘ve often thought about the people who have had the most positive impact on my life,” Ashley says. Vern Weber and Brother Ivo Regan, C.S.C., always make the list. As a student he had attention-deficit disorder and recalls that his teachers were very patient. “I’ve lived in 10 different cities over my 68 years, but I’d have a hard time thinking of any better two years than those spent in Gates Mills at the corner of Cedar and SOM Center roads,” he says. “I loved Gilmour.”
Today, Ashley is the father of three children –Tommy, Christopher and Camille – and the grandfather of three, and is enrolled at New School University where he takes non-credit classes taught by “older” students.
Like his 93-year-old mother who drives around in a baby blue Jaguar, Ashley shows no signs of slowing down despite double bypass surgery accompanied by a staph infection six years ago. The experience made him realize he had a lot to be grateful for and to never take anything for granted.
When Ashley returned to Gilmour in June for his 50th reunion, he took his traditional lap around the track. “It’s great to see old classmates; it’s like coming home.”