Jack M. Ferraro, MBA ’70, receives the Samuel C. Johnson Distinguished Service Award
Although he began his graduate studies at Cornell in a joint law and MBA program, Jack Ferraro liked the business school so much more that he decided to focus his education on business; he went on to earn his MBA with distinction. “I was exposed to a whole new world I did not know before, and I learned to apply an analytical thought process that has served me well throughout my life,” he says. What’s more, “the professors really cared about us. Hal Bierman, Tom Dyckman, Jerry Hass, Joe Thomas, Alan McAdams – they all truly cared about education and about students. I really appreciated that. And they all stayed involved with the school for 45 or more years — simply remarkable.”
In fact, he says, he had such a great experience as an MBA student that he has always been enthusiastic about staying connected and giving back to the school. And he has done so in myriad ways, beginning with spearheading the school’s first, informal alumni association in New York City in the early 1990s — “Hal Bierman and Al Merton [who was then the school’s Dean] came to speak, and Donna Spinella [’78, MBA ’86, then director of Alumni Affairs] was our liaison,” he says.
Ferraro went on to serve for 20 years as a member of Johnson’s Advisory Council, 1994-2013, and he is a long-time and passionate supporter of the Parker Center for Investment Research, including serving on the Parker Center Advisory Board and on the board of directors and investment committee of the Cayuga MBA Fund. A lead individual sponsor of Johnson’s annual MBA Stock Pitch Challenge, the winners’ trophy bears his name. In addition, Ferraro was also a member of the Cornell University Council.
“Serving on the Advisory Council offered the most immediate way for me to stay involved with and give back to Johnson,” says Ferraro, CFA, who spent 21 years as a money manager of individual and institutional accounts at Neuberger & Berman, LLC, including 17 years as a partner, retiring in 2000. “It also provides a forum to give real-world framework to the school, and provide first-hand knowledge of the business world,” he says. “We talked about curriculum and about placement … that kind of feedback is important to the school.”
Ferraro’s long and successful career as a securities analyst and money manager made him a natural for supporting the Parker Center — and so did his close friendship with classmate Jeff Parker '65, MEng '66, MBA '70, who provided the initial funding to establish the center, and for whom it is named. “I was particularly attracted that the main funding was coming from Jeff and that his name was on the door,” says Ferraro. “I saw what was offered by other institutions, and I saw that no one else was offering what the Parker Center does.” About the MBA Stock Pitch Challenge, Ferraro is drawn to the intense nature of the competition, which requires students to analyze stocks and industries in a very short time frame, and provides the opportunity to compete before judges who are investment industry experts, giving them a chance to shine before prospective employers. “I don’t believe students of the late ’60s had the skills to do this,” Ferraro says. “That has evolved over the last 40 years."
One thing that has not changed for money managers over the years is the intrinsic reward that comes from doing well for clients and increasing their wealth. “We really cared about our clients,” Ferraro says. “It was most satisfying when we could truly help somebody over a period of time, allowing them to enjoy their lives, do things they couldn’t otherwise do for themselves and their offspring, and be thanked for it.”
Staying connected with Johnson is important and rewarding both for the school and for alumni, Ferraro says. “Private institutions are enhanced by and grow with those who have gone to them. They also rely on private sources for funding. If you had a good experience, as I did, it’s particularly important for you to stay involved, to show you appreciate what you learned and the positive effect it has had on your life. In addition, it’s nice to become aware of what’s being taught at the cutting edge; you’ll get that if you stay involved.”
Surprised and honored at receiving the Samuel C. Johnson Distinguished Service award, Ferraro said: “When you get involved with a nonprofit organization, you don’t do it to be rewarded for your effort; it gives you a lot of satisfaction or you wouldn’t do it. That’s enough psychic compensation. I had no expectation of receiving this award. It has been very surprising and extremely gratifying to have the school recognize my contributions.”