Syracuse University Magazine

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Danny Heumann (left) and Andrew Gumpert began a lifelong friendship when they met as undergraduates at SU.



Orange Connection

Motivated for Change

College is a time when people meet and forge lifelong friendships. Such was the case for Andrew Gumpert '89 and Daniel Heumann '91, who became friends during their college days on the Hill and, like many Orange alumni, established a long-lasting connection that continues to this day. "We became instant friends when we first met in 1986," says Gumpert, president of worldwide business affairs and operations for Columbia Pictures (a division of Sony Pictures) in Los Angeles.

Last spring, the pair reunited when Gumpert invited Heumann, a motivational speaker, to give a presentation to staff members at Sony Pictures about overcoming adversity. "Using my experiences and what I've been dealing with for the last 26 years as a paraplegic, I take those issues and challenges and I parallel them to the issues and challenges that my audience is facing in their careers and lives," says Heumann, founder of Heumannly Capable, a motivational speaking company based in Michigan. Heumann also serves as a board member of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, where he created the Daniel Heumann Young Scientist Fund, which provides funding for young scientists who want to begin their professional careers focusing on spinal cord research. Before joining the Reeve Foundation, Heumann was vice president of the Daniel Heumann Fund for Spinal Cord Research, which was established in 1986 and has raised more than $5 million for research centers around the world. "At Sony Pictures, they wanted me to talk about how to overcome adversity and prepare for change in the industry," he says.

When it comes to navigating change, Heumann told the audience to use four attributes to be successful in their careers and lives: courage, persistence, attitude, and the importance of asking for help. He believes embodying all four of these characteristics helps a person and, in turn, a company to succeed. Heumann also spoke to the Sony audience about creating a better dialogue between employees with and without disabilities, to help the company become stronger as a whole. "The goal of my presentation was for people to realize that it's OK to have a disability, and it's OK to talk about disabilities," Heumann says.

Heumann's speech and the lessons he has learned through his own challenges in life provided inspiration to the Sony employees, Gumpert says. "Everyone literally asked why his presentation had to end in an hour. It was incredibly successful and was extremely engaging and thought provoking." —Natalie Maneval