Nickelodeon executive Pam Kaufman relaxing in her Irvington home with one of her two Havanese.
photograph by stefan Radtke
Kaufman, with YouTube star JoJo Siwa and musician Gwen Stefani, creator of Nickelodeon’s animated series Kuu Kuu Harajuku, in New York City in March.
Photo by Scott Gries/Invision for Nickelodeon/AP Images
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Among these many role models were Kaufman’s mother and father. “I had fantastic parents, who instilled in me the value of friendship, working hard, being nice, and thinking of others,” says Kaufman, explaining her ethos. While growing up in Nanuet, she watched them run their own businesses — her mother was a teacher who eventually owned a successful bridge club, and after a career on Wall Street, her father became a prominent horse handicapper. Influenced by her mother, who “always felt having your own identity, your own money, and a job was very important,” says Kaufman, “I always say to people, ‘If you’re present, and you’re happy, your kids are going to be happy. If you’re distracted and miserable, so will they be.’” Kaufman counts herself lucky to have had strong assistance from her parents when she was a working mom. “My mom would say, ‘We’ll take care of [the kids]. It’s ok.’ Having that support was incredible — and my husband’s pretty awesome, too,” Kaufman notes.
That would be Scott Drath, a financial consultant whom she met at a party during their senior year of college in Washington, DC — he at George Washington University and she at American University, where she earned a BA in communications. Together since then, they settled in Irvington in 2000. Their son, Alex, a graduate of GW who works for Vail Resorts in Colorado, and Amanda, a sophomore at Washington University in St. Louis studying economics, both graduated from Irvington High School. (Amanda recently penned an article, “Why Having a Working Mom Is the Best Thing Ever,” that was picked up by Huffington Post.) Kaufman’s sister, Jill Evans, brother-in-law Chris, and three nephews live in nearby Harrison.
Empty nesters now, Kaufman and Drath love the “community feeling” and “whole vibe of the Rivertowns,” with no plans to move. They frequently indulge their love of rock ’n’ roll and live music at The Capitol Theatre in Port Chester and enjoy dining there, as well as in Irvington and Tarrytown. She walks her two Havanese, AJ and Mac, every weekend at Halsey Pond (“my favorite place in the whole world”), works out at PUSH Personal Training and patronizes Salon Topaz in Dobbs Ferry.
In her professional life, Kaufman has survived and thrived in the competitive world of Viacom, Nickelodeon’s parent company, by “being available to whatever people needed to get the job done.”
Throughout her career, Kaufman has received numerous prestigious awards, most recently in 2016, when Multichannel News named her one of their “Wonder Women.” She is pleased yet decidedly modest about the recognition, preferring to discuss fellow honoree Stephanie McMahon of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and the partnership they forged, including a successful co-branded toy line featuring the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the wrestlers, as a result of networking at the 2016 awards ceremony. Last year was a banner year for another of Kaufman’s passions — travel, which she calls “energizing” and “invigorating.” Excursions last year included a self-described “life-changing bucket-list trip” to South Africa, where she visited Cape Town and went on two safaris. She also took an extended family trip to Iceland, to celebrate her son’s college graduation.
Memorable experiences like those and career satisfaction have elevated Kaufman’s gratitude for her own good fortune. “I love what I do,” she says earnestly. “I love our company; I love the brand; I love what we represent…. I cannot believe I get to work on SpongeBob every day of my life…. I feel really fortunate to work on something like that; it’s really, really brilliant.”
Liz Susman Karp is a freelance writer and longtime resident of Briarcliff Manor who watched many Nickelodeon shows with her two sons when they were young.