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2015 Dick Nunis
Dick Nunis got a summer job at Disneyland in 1955 and retired 44 years later chairman of Walt Disney Attractions. In between, he played a vital role in developing Disney parks and resorts around the world.
Dick learned about Disneyland through his USC classmate, Ron Miller, who was Walt’s son-in-law. On a lark, he decided to apply for a summer job and was hired by Van France, founder of The Disney University and author of the Park’s orientation and training program. Just prior to the Park’s July 17, 1955, debut, they began training Disneyland employees. The first class included Walt and his executives.
During those early years, Dick learned Walt Disney’s theme park philosophy firsthand. And, as he guided the growth of Disney’s outdoor attractions from a single park into a worldwide resort, he kept his focus on the people. “Walt believed strongly that what would make Disneyland different was the people—he wanted them to feel that they were part of the organization,” Dick once said. “That’s why he established the first-name policy—he was Walt, I was Dick, and so on. From an overall operations point of view, the most important thing is to work together to make sure that when guests come, they have a wonderful experience.”
Dick soon worked his way up to attractions supervisor, developing standard operating procedures for all of the Park’s attractions. Many of these are still in use today. In 1961, he became director of park operations and helped develop “Project X,” better known today as Walt Disney World.
From 1967-1974, Dick also served as chairman of the Park Operations Committee, and, in 1968, was bumped up to vice president of operations. By 1971, the year the Magic Kingdom opened at Walt Disney World, he was named executive vice president of Walt Disney World and Disneyland. In 1980, a month after his 25th anniversary with Disney, he was named president of the Outdoor Recreation Division, overseeing The Magic Kingdom, Epcot Center and, later, the Disney-MGM Studios Theme Park. Dick also consulted on plans for Disneyland Paris and Tokyo Disneyland while serving on the Walt Disney Productions Board of Directors.
On May 26, 1999, exactly 44 years to the day since he joined the Company, Dick retired as chairman of Walt Disney Attractions.