Student-Athletes Mentored by Fordham Alumni
Feb. 27, 2013
Bronx, N.Y. - Photo Gallery
If a Fordham football player wanted to know how to throw a football, he would reach out to former Ram John Skelton, who just completed his third year in the NFL. If a Fordham track and field star needed some pointers on the long jump, it would only be logical to contact Kerstin Greene, Fordham's first track and field All-American who placed fourth in the pentathlon at the 2007 NCAA Championship. And if a Fordham student-athlete wanted career advice, it would only make sense for them to reach out to some of Fordham's top alumni in the business field.
On January 29, over 250 Fordham student-athletes attended the Student-Athlete Career Mentoring Night in the McGinley Center Ballroom, sponsored by the Athletic Department with help from the Student Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) and the Office of Development and Alumni Relations where they received guidance and support from six Fordham graduate who have gone on to find success in their chosen fields.
The six alums who shared their insights included David Almeida, GSB '73, Jim Houlihan, GSB '74, Pat Keenan, GSB '75, Charlie Menges, FCRH '64, Mike Puglisi, GSB '72 and John Zizzo, FCRH '69. Four of the six could relate easily to the student-athletes in attendance as they too were student-athletes in their days at Fordham with Keenan and Zizzo having played with on the football team, Menges with the men's basketball squad and Houlihan with the baseball Rams.
Director of Athletic David Roach got things started with opening remarks, raising a theme that was repeated by each of the panelist.
"I urge you not to worry about the money at the beginning of your career," said Roach. "Do what you love and the money will come. Also, when you're trying to get your foot in the door, don't be afraid to use your connections."
Each panelist was introduced by Brendan Melanophy, GSB '13, a member of the football team and the vice president of SAAC, and spoke for a few minutes on their backgrounds.
Almeida, a retired executive vice president with the Bank of New York, was introduced first and pointed out the importance of highlighting the fact that you are a student-athlete when applying for a position.
"There's something about athletes that translate into the business world," said Almeida. "Athletes have a strong work ethic, the knack to work as a team, the stamina of body and mind and the ability to deal with failure. These are things we found in the business world to be positive characteristics."
Houlihan, a partner with Houlihan-Parnes Realtors, Inc. and a generous benefactor of the Fordham baseball team, relayed to the crowd the lessons he learned as a student-athlete, lessons that included learning how to do your very best at whatever you do.
"When was I starting out in the real estate profession, I learned a valuable lesson about giving an honest effort every day," said Houlihan. "I would always ask myself, `what could I have done better'. It's something that I applied not only to my business life but also to my personal life. As my grandmother used to always say, `anything worth doing, is worth doing well'."
Keenan, a retired financial consultant with Arnhold & S. Bleichroeder Advisors, LLC, spoke of his experience as the chief financial officer of prestigious asset management firms. He presented six keys for a person to maximize their hiring potential, suggestions that included maintaining a good GPA to working on keeping your skills, and resume, up to date and making lucky breaks for yourself.
His last piece of advice to the group was one for the ages. "Life only gets more complicated as you get older. You've got to be able to do things early in your life. The first ten years are the most critical for your career."
"It's great to be able to do something you love," said Zizzo. "At the same time, it's important to try different things until you find the one you truly love. The first job you take is not necessarily the one you should focus on for the rest of your life. I had five different legal jobs until I found the perfect one."
He also noted how his experience as a football player helped shaped his professional career. As a member of the 1968 Fordham club football team, a team that would finish the year as the number one ranked cub team in the country, the Rams traveled to New Orleans to face Louisiana State - New Orleans, at the time the top rushing team in the country, for their Homecoming game. The Rams were outweighed by 40 pounds or more per player on the line and LSU-New Orleans had crushed every opponent that season.
"I was petrified as was every other player on the Fordham team," said Zizzo. "But we all decided that we were not going to fail, that we would not be the weak link that would cause the team to fail. And we beat them 14-6 while allowing only 16 rushing yards in the game!"
Zizzo ended his exchange with, what he believes, are the most important personal characteristics. "Honesty and integrity are absolutely essential. I never said anything I didn't believe in. You can go a long way in your career with honesty and integrity."
Menges, a principal with Bernstein Global Wealth Management, opened by mentioning that he played basketball in the days of the set shot, and was a walk-on to the basketball team. One day, he arrived at the Rose Hill Gym only to see that the Los Angeles Lakers, featuring Jerry West and Wilt Chamberlain, had taken over the gym for a practice. It was at that point that he realized that professional basketball wasn't in his future so Menges became active in the student government under the direction of Fr. Bill Boyle, who taught him the importance of networking.
Puglisi, retired senior managing director with The Blackstone Group, started his talk by explaining how his first nine years in business, working with Arthur Anderson, gave him the opportunity to search out and identify the area he was interested in pursuing. He came to the realization that he enjoyed working with small businesses and went on to work for 12 years for the Kuwait Business Office before joining The Blackstone Group in 1994 when it was a small office.
"Find out what stimulates you and drives you," said Puglisi. "When you find what that is, do it with integrity and with a strong work ethic."
Puglisi also mentioned the importance of creating a competitive advantage and selling yourself to a prospective employer as well as having an attention to detail. "Be provocative and take the initiative when looking for a job and do your homework. Develop a broad skill set and be willing to take on new responsibilities."
Following the presentation, the panelists took questions from the student-athletes before splitting up into smaller groups where the juniors and seniors were able to spend time with the six professionals.
"This was a great opportunity to meet with some successful Fordham graduates in the business world," said Khalid Robinson, FCRH '13 and a member of the basketball team. "In today's competitive job market, it helps to take advantage of every available resource. I think we all learned some very important lessons tonight and are in debt to these six alums for taking time out of their busy schedules to meet with us."