In May 2013, one of the major figures in the history of Pace—long-time adviser, alumnus, and supporter Neil Bianco ’61—stepped down from his current role as Chairman of the Board of Trustees. The administration, board members, and faculty gathered together to celebrate Mr. Bianco’s time and service to Pace at a heartfelt event that included a special “Inside the Trustee’s Studio” with James Lipton, video testimonials, and fond farewells. However, no one at the event was able to capture the spirit of what Pace has meant to Mr. Bianco—and he to Pace—better than the man himself, in this letter to all alumni.
“Pace Changed My Life”
I started at Pace in February 1958 as an Accountancy Practice major and graduated in May 1961. I spent the next 20 years as a Certified Public Accountant at Arthur Young & Company where I became the youngest partner appointed. Subsequently I worked eight years as an executive with American corporations involved in finance and entertainment, followed by 18 years as the chief operating officer of a major law firm. Today, in my semiretirement, I am a consultant in strategic and operational issues to the legal profession as well as a director on hedge fund and private company boards. The academic part of my education was challenging and taught me about hard work and ethics. The business courses were tough and demanding and additionally, we were required to take 50 percent of our courses in liberal arts. I discovered how greatly I enjoyed history and English literature and philosophy, which led to a lifelong interest in reading.
The extracurricular activities at Pace were critical in teaching me to deal with people. Faculty advisers and administrators were always close and always involved deeply, and their guidance and experience enabled me to realize my full potential at the University. As one example, in my senior year, Ed Mortola became President of the College and because I was President of the Student Government, I was chosen to speak at his inauguration. The address was held at City Hall in the City Council chambers, since the College didn’t have a space big enough to accommodate the audience from business and academia. This was a great experience for me and gave me confidence to strive for new and higher goals.
I chose to remain close to Pace. I retained a relationship with my most influential teacher, Richard Matthews, who was then chair of the Accounting Department and subsequently became the first dean of the Lubin School of Business. Dick asked me to guest lecture to the senior accounting students about my experiences at Arthur Young & Company. Those guest lectures generally ended up with me talking about the best way to interview to obtain an offer from one of the then Big Eight accounting firms.
To this day, I have numerous friends among present and former faculty members. In 1969, the Board of Trustees asked Lydia Kess, Grace LaMacchia, and me to join the board as special alumni trustees.(Our terms were supposed to be limited— but nobody ever asked us to leave!) This appointment gave me exposure to some of the giants of corporate America, people like Charles Dyson, Joseph Lubin, and Gus Leinhard, for whom three of our schools are named. Over time, I was introduced to many other CEOs and CFOs of banks and corporations who were trustees and alumni of Pace Institute—the predecessor of Pace College. Becoming involved in the top management of the University at such a young age gave me insight into the workings of the executive offices of some of the largest multinational corporations at that time.
These leaders showed me that they were just regular people doing the best job with the best resources at hand, not the superheroes of the business world that we envision. This did not diminish their importance in my eyes, but showed me that by recognizing and implementing my talent, there might be opportunities for an unsophisticated, hard worker like me. After the first couple of trustee meetings, I summoned the courage to make some minor suggestions. To my surprise, they listened! I became involved in the search for a new Chief Financial Officer for the University and learned how that process worked. As a result, they made me chair of the Finance Committee. You can imagine how this boosted my confidence (as well as my time commitment!). I got some real satisfaction from being able to continue to contribute to my alma mater over the years with time and effort, as well as money.
The symbiotic relationship between my career path in business and my involvement at Pace was amazing to me. When the University was acquiring other colleges, my professional life took me on a path to participate in major corporate acquisitions for clients. The principles I learned in the classroom helped throughout. The satisfaction that I got from my work at Pace led me to join other not for- profit boards where I continued to get great satisfaction as well. I strive to lead by example and my wife and children are all active in nonprofit causes dear to them. I embrace what Aristotle had defined in the Greek word oikonomike, the root of our word economics. The word suggests that the accumulation of wealth does not mean unlimited wealth but rather the acquisition of enough wealth to live a good life. It means to take care of your family and to contribute to the society as a whole. To me, there is no greater satisfaction. Pace gave me both the opportunity and the tools to implement my dream.
For that, I am forever grateful.
To view the video tribute to Neil Bianco ’61 and to hear more from his colleagues and friends at Pace, please visit www.pace.edu/withgratitude.