Jay Schwartzkopf ’97 is a passionate guy. You can feel his energy and enthusiasm the moment he begins speaking. And two of the things he’s most passionate about are UB and the School of Management.
Although he graduated only 10 years ago and currently resides in Virginia, Schwartzkopf’s involvement with the school would make many an older alumnus blush. He is a newly elected member of the UB Alumni Association Board, serves as a Telementor for current students seeking employment and career advice, and returns to campus once or twice a year as a guest lecturer for “Career Strategies, Planning and Management,” a required course for all School of Management undergraduates.
In addition to his commitments of time, Schwartzkopf also contributes financially to the School of Management. He knows first-hand that alumni gifts can have a direct impact on students’ lives.
“Even as a student, I knew that if I had the means, I would give back to UB,” Schwartzkopf says. “As a junior, I came into a tight financial situation and had maxed out all conventional means of state and federal financial aid. The director of financial aid was able to identify a $300 scholarship and an $800 low-interest loan donated by two alumni. While $1,100 doesn’t seem like a lot now, for a 20-year-old student making $5 an hour, it allowed me to focus on my studies and participate in extracurricular activities instead of having to get a second part-time job.”
Schwartzkopf says his wide range of activities as a student helped him develop skills and traits that were crucial to his future success. He was a member of Delta Sigma Pi business fraternity, writer for the The Spectrum, president of the Financial Management Association and intern at KeyBank, National Fuel and the U.S. Department of Labor, in addition to many other activities.
But he says it was the connections with UB alumni that were most important in helping launch and advance his career. Paul Allaire ’81, currently the director of the Frank L. Ciminelli Family Career Resource Center in the School of Management, served as Schwartzkopf’s Telementor and provided a contact at Bank of America (then NationsBank) in Charlotte, N.C., that led to Schwartzkopf’s first professional position.
Schwartzkopf’s second position, a senior systems engineer at Micromuse Inc., had a UB connection, as well. Although he claims he had no relevant experience, UB alumnus Michael Zekser ’87 offered him a position. “We helped bring in more than $40 million in sales over a five-year period,” Schwartzkopf says, “but if Michael hadn’t taken a chance on me and invested in a year of on-the-job training, I would not be where I am today.”
Now at IBM in Reston, Va., Schwartzkopf helps identify new business opportunities in the federal government and develops teaming relationships with the large federal systems integrators such as EDS, Raytheon, SRA International, SAIC and Nortel Government Solutions.
As an alumnus, Schwartzkopf says he realizes now that any gift, whether it is $50 or $50,000, can have a huge impact on an individual student fulfilling his or her potential. He recalls when he was a student and EDS donated video equipment for practice interviews.
“If it hadn’t been for that video equipment, I would never have seen how awful I was in an interview,” he says with a laugh. “Thankfully, I was able to practice and correct some flaws before it really counted.”
That experience is one reason that Schwartzkopf and his wife made a gift to fund a room in the new Alfiero Center. The “Jay and Kristine Schwartzkopf Interviewing Room” is one of seven interview rooms in the Career Resource Center that accommodate dozens of on-campus recruiters throughout the year, conducting hundreds of interviews.
Despite his gifts of time and money, Schwartzkopf remains modest about his involvement. “What I do is not anything special,” he says. “I just contribute and give back to a community that helped me out.”
Written by Cathy Wilde