When Joan Robbins was 3, her mother asked why she was climbing behind the television in their Northeast Philadelphia home. “Because I want to be in television,” little Joan firmly replied.
Today, Robbins, a 1971 Penn State alumna, is definitely in television, and she just acquired the ultimate piece of TV-industry bling: a Daytime Emmy award, the happy outcome of her first nomination in a 40-year career.
"At least I didn’t have to wait as long as Susan Lucci,” Robbins said, jokingly referring to the Hollywood icon who finally took home an Emmy after 17 losses. “I always thought ‘I can’t believe people scream when they win.’ But I screamed!”
Robbins’ work as a co-producer of "Cars.TV" was honored for Outstanding Lifestyle Program. It defeated four others including "The Martha Stewart Show." "Cars.TV" features collectors, custom designers, innovators and automobile enthusiasts. It is broadcast on Verizon FIOS high-definition television.
Robbins, who completed two years of study at Penn State Abington (then known as Penn State Ogontz) and graduated from the University Park campus with a degree in health and human development, has a demanding job as president of talent relations for California-based Entertainment Studios where she is responsible for producing numerous programs. She was the first person hired by Byron Allen, television personality and Entertainment Studios chief executive officer, when he founded the content provider 19 years ago.
Since she lives near Abington campus, her office hours are officially noon to 9 p.m. so she is on the same schedule as her West Coast colleagues. Weekends often are consumed by movie junkets and other work-related obligations. “There is one hotel in New York that is like my second home,” she said.
But the Northeast Philadelphia native loves everything about her busy life. She has interviewed athletes, politicians and celebrities including Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos, designer-to-the-stars Monique Lhuillier and actress Halle Berry. A good friend produced the hit show “How I Met Your Mother.” The publicists who work the red carpet? Robbins counts them among her friends.
Robbins has many fond memories, but interviewing the late Sen. Ted Kennedy stands out for her. “We were talking about my history,” she said.
Despite her busy schedule, Robbins makes it a priority to give back. She has volunteered with the Starlight Children’s Foundation, leveraging the same skills that have made her successful to help fulfill the wishes of ill children. She surprises friends with small gestures, such as a phone call from a favorite TV celebrity.
Robbins’ connection to Penn State Abington and its students endures. She funds the Robbins Newman Scholarship, which is awarded to an outstanding student with demonstrated financial need. Robbins was honored as the Spring 2009 commencement speaker, serves on the For The Future campaign committee and was a founding member of the Abington Alumni Society Board.
The woman who sprouted in Northeast Philadelphia, was nurtured at Abington and flowered in Hollywood won’t even consider retirement. “I always say, do what you love and you will do it for a long time. And television is the only thing I ever wanted to do.”
Robbins isn’t resting on her laurels, but she can’t help but bask in the afterglow of winning an Emmy award. “It’s a thrill, but I kept thinking that I was going to wake up from the best dream ever,” she said.