Monday, June 3, 2019

The End Of A Manhattanville Legend

A piece of Manhattanville College died when sister Ruth Dowd passed on Friday, May 31, 2019, four months after her 100th birthday. People will look at those dates will say “she had a good run,” or “she had a good life.” And while that is true, the fact is those who really knew her know there is much more to her story!
Obituaries tell us about a person’s life; where they are from, went to school, worked, their family etc. They are benign by nature…
Let me tell you my thoughts about the PERSON, and bear in mind, I met her when she hired me 13 years ago…when she was merely 87!

Ruth is one of my favorite names. Aside from being the eighth book in the Bible, and only one of two named after women in the Old & New Testaments,  it was my Grandmother’s (mother’s side) name. You want to talk about special people????

Sister Ruth Dowd hired me in 2006 to run the sport business management program at Manhattanville College. I took the interviews, but I really was kind of like, “well, this is something I should be thinking about in 15 to 20 years,” but when speaking to her and her associate Don Richards, and their team, I just felt like I belonged. I was hired and there’s no doubt that the main reason I was so, was because her two dogs, Dudley and Jolie, liked me, (hey I AM a dog person!—well, at least I thought they did until one of them left a package under my chair the first week I was there. Maybe that was my initiation!)

Nobody knew more about the college, its history, the history of the castle and all of the special rooms therein, how they “were shipped from Europe,” the ceilings, the paintings, the walls, the ghosts—she knew. She would claim boastfully that, “it was not the husband but the wife who had the money,” when Ambassador Reid donated all that precious land to the College of the Sacred Heart, which was housed in the Manhattanville section of Harlem, the then all girls Catholic college which would see so many changes thereafter. But the one constant that came out to the suburbs was the nun who loved tight writing, demanded dedication and hard work. 

Sister Ruth, to me, was the glue, the link to the past and “Ruth” will live in infamy through her writing program and through this graduate school she started. Whether you call it Graduate and Professional Studies, a school of business or school professional studies, whatever the nomenclature—to me it’s Ruth Dowd’s legacy. She is the smartest person I have met on this campus who somehow gained an amazing business sense.

The successful program in sport business management is her legacy, not mine. Ruth Dowd deserves the credit! Several years before my joining the staff at the college, a report was commissioned (at a high fee) to determine what graduate programs the college should pursue. The report in its great wisdom, exclaimed that “a Sports Business Management program would not be successful at the college.” Sister Ruth Dowd did not care what the report said; she liked the idea and moved forward, with then President Richard Berman’s full understanding and support. The rest as they say is history.

God, I loved her spunk!
I like to keep lists and make notes on things that need to get done at work and my personal life, projects around the house etc. One of the things that I put on this list for the past several years was to go see Sister Ruth in Albany. And every time I looked at the list, I failed to cross that off. I felt bad about my not giving that more importance and lamented the supposed busyness that kept me from getting up
to see her. I regret that.

Sister Ruth Dowd had a kindness and a kindred spirit that I just felt connected to from day one. I know that years earlier she had more of an edge, and I saw that in bits and pieces. Pounding on her desk to one of our senior administrators exclaiming the need to market the programs, (am I right Mary Corrarino?) or walking in my office after somebody left hers stating, “that guy was a jerk.” OK, she didn’t use the word “jerk,” but hey, she was human!  She had her feelings.  But my guess is the dogs did not care for him or vice versa.
I saw her react to tragic situations and it just struck me how gentle and stoic she was, not because she didn’t care but she just had a peace about her–she was a tough bird. She was demanding. She wanted people to work hard. She wanted people to care. She loved what she did and she staked her place in the academic world. She “got it.”

Sister Ruth Dowd was endearing. She was fun to be around and when we did a good job in our department on a big project,  she rewarded us with a nice lunch celebration. She kept herself sharp, sometimes by playing solitaire on the computer, certainly by reading and asking lots of questions. On her way out, especially at the beginning, she would stop at my office, which was next to hers and ask me, “what were you able to accomplish today, David?” I would give her a litany of things that I was working on and she would shake her head and say,  “see you tomorrow.”

I think beyond her work, she earned my respect and admiration not just because of her prowess in academics, but because she somehow had the innate ability as a good person of business. I don’t know how she acquired this and maybe it was just a natural function of being a woman, who in all honesty are more savvy to begin with, and add the bonus of being a a nun!

She understood the way business worked, how to do business and more importantly how to both drive and respect people.I love her for that and I love her for the fact that she hired me and that she (and Don and  Dudley and Jolie) thought enough of me to build this program, to sustain it and maintain it, 500+ graduates and almost thirteen years later and still going strong, and at the end of the day I’ve worked at this job longer than any job in my career!
She will always be in our hearts. She’ll live on probably in these buildings along with the other spirits who are around and although I failed to do so, I hope that she comes and visits me…a lot!
One of the Castle stories she liked to tell was that it was haunted. I have had several interactions in my office with the lights going on and off and I just say out loud, “I don’t really care, just pick one, on or off!?”

I was unable to make those trips to Albany to see her. I hope that she comes back to the Castle however and haunts me every day, keeping me on my toes, I’d love to hear her ask me, “David, what have you accomplished today?”
Rest in peace, my friend.

Dave Torromeo

Executive Director 
MS Sport Business & Entertainment Management Master's Program

Thursday, March 7, 2019


Tom Brady could have been one of the highest paid NFL players ever to play the game.

However, he is not.

Brady has made $197 million over the course of his career, so nobody is shedding tears for him.

Brady has frequently taken contract extensions and restructured his deals to help the New England Patriots address other spots on the roster, giving up at least $60 million over the course of his career. Even those who heartily pull against the Patriots in every game, not just the Super Bowl, (and full disclosure, this would describe me) would have the utmost respect for ANY person who thought of his team more than he did himself, (I do).

Brady has made plenty of money in his NFL career —but what if he had not taken less or restructured contracts over the course of his career to help the Patriots out? Brady would be a richer man, and perhaps the highest-paid player in NFL history. There are many factors to winning a Super Bowl—the only one game championship in major American sports (all others are a series of games).

We call it “The Gisele Factor.”

A good-looking brash quarter back is nothing new to the league. Seriously, Joe Namath was the original “Bachelor,” Super Bowl MVP and “heart throb”…but those are almost a dime a dozen in the sport. What makes these Patriots tick in a way that no other NFL team has, or probably ever will again?

Six wins and three losses have been with Tom Brady at QB and Bill Belichick as head coach.

Again, WHAT is the secret sauce?

Tom Brady has willingly restructured his contract and taken less money so that the team could competitively sign significant contributors and keep them under the salary cap. Obviously, Brady has made “a lot” of money comparative to the average Joe, but why leave that kind of scratch off the table? Millions of dollars. He clearly must be the ultimate team player, but everyone has a “hedge.”

Along comes Gisele Caroline Bündchenis a Brazilian model and actress. I can’t tell you how or when they met…don’t care frankly. Since 2004, Bündchen has been among the highest-paid models in the world, and one of the richest woman in the entertainment industry.

Bündchen is an icon; her net worth is almost $500 million. That’s “half a Bil” to people like Warren Buffet and Mark Zuckerberg.  To most people it is more money than generations have amassed.
Bündchen married Brady in 2009. Together the couple is approaching 1 Billion in net worth. However, at the end of the day, that is really their business. No one can tell them how to live or spend their money, or what they should negotiate for future remuneration.

That is why we give Brady great credit. Many men would feel the need to squeeze every buck out of their employer in order to “compete” as the breadwinner. At the end of the day, he not only did not feel the need to do that, he was smart enough to realize that his income level would benefit the type of players the front office got to surround #12.

So, if you are an NFL owner, you need that star QB, that is hard enough…but then you also need  some relief in the form of a super model who makes millions of dollars and a guy who gets that team first philosophy….

Good luck, that is why we conclude this one sided debate with this thesis…

The Patriots model can truly never happen again.


Let’s face it- adult students who are seeking a bachelor’s degree are typically juggling several different balls in their busy world. Some are raising families; they’re working forty hours a week or more; and they like to maintain an active social life. Somehow, in between doing all of that, they are also trying their best to earn a college degree.

For this reason, accelerated degree completion options like APPEAL exist. The simple idea and concept behind a program like APPEAL is to make it as convenient as possible for the busy adult student to earn a BS. And while the classes themselves as well as the copious amounts of homework can be taxing and time-consuming, adult students appreciate the format and structure of the courses.

In an effort to continue to provide convenient degree completion options for the busy adult student, in January 2019, the School of Professional Studies began offering hybrid courses as part of the APPEAL program. So what exactly does this mean? Hybrid courses blend traditional college coursework and lectures with distance learning, better known as online learning. While the majority of the work for these classes will still be completed in class with one of our excellent and skilled instructors, having a portion of the course completed online adds to the convenience factor that makes APPEAL so, well, appealing to adult learners.

Online coursework for APPEAL courses typically utilize Blackboard, a software that colleges and universities use nationwide. It allows the students and instructor to interact by way of interactive forums, and it gives them both the opportunity to easily share work and view coursework that others in class are doing. It’s not uncommon in a course that is hybrid for the instructor to create a well-detailed Powerpoint presentation, and then share it with their students in either Blackboard or by email. This same presentation is something that the instructor could have physically shared in class, but by teaching the class in a hybrid format, the students can view the Powerpoint and even participate in a subsequent discussion about it from the comfort of their own home or even from their office.

Online courses and hybrid courses are nothing new for higher education. In fact, schools that were pioneering this style of learning broke new ground and made great strides with this as far back as two decades ago. Now, in 2019, APPEAL students can complete some of the work for that long-desired bachelor’s degree by using their computer (or even their smartphone) and a good wi-fi connection.

     - J
on DeBenedictis 
       Director of Undergraduate Professional Studies

Don’t Abdicate The Throne Book Summary

Don’t Abdicate The Throne, by Dr. Lisa Brooks Greaux, is a rallying cry for women to “take their seat at the table," take back their power, and crash their own party. Describing her debut book as the treasure trove of advice she never received as a young woman, Dr. Brooks Greaux walks her readers through what she believes are the steps necessary to achieve a purposeful life.  

Part memoir, part how-to book, Don't Abdicate the Throne is a practical roadmap for young women in the early stages of their careers and for any woman looking to re-enter the workforce after taking a hiatus. It offers actionable steps to take when it comes to finding a mentor, asking for what you want, getting the right exposure, and taking stock of your strengths and skills. The author also touches on when it’s time to say goodbye to the toxic people in your life and, more importantly, discusses why it's paramount to create a supportive network she calls  “Your Personal Village.”

Included in the book are several lists of thoughtful questions to ask yourself about the kind of life you want, the type of mentor you need, and the fears standing in your way. From the very first page, the author places an emphasis on the importance of setting goals and taking healthy risks, and offers insight and tips on how she actually does this in her own life, even to this day.

Above all, Dr. Brooks Greaux extols her readers to ask for what they want, not only in the workplace but also in their personal lives, and authentically shares how not asking cost her professionally. Taking on the more sobering tone of a cautionary tale in the chapters on Having Power, Facing Failure, and Reinventing Yourself, the author encourages readers to examine the stories they tell themselves about themselves. 

About Dr. Lisa Brooks-Greaux
Dr. Lisa Brooks-Greaux, is the principal and founder of S.Y.N.C. Inc., a business consultant, executive coach, and lecturer at Montclair State University and Manhattanville College. In her earlier corporate life she held senior positions in sales and human resources at several Fortune 500 companies, including Verizon Wireless, JP Morgan Chase, Pfizer Inc, Zoetis Inc. and Delphi Inc. In 2000, the Network Journal recognized her as one of the 25 Most Influential Black Women in Business. In 2008 she was a noted speaker at the Global HR Forum in Seoul, South Korea. In 2018, she received the Professing Excellence Award from Montclair State University.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Your Enterprise’s Vulnerabilities: An Activist Approach

In using the term “activist,” I am not referring to high-pressure tactics used by some hedge funds and private equity investors to influence management decisions at private and public companies. I am also not referring to the individuals or groups that protest for or against specific political, social, or business decisions. Rather, I see “activist” as someone who stays on top of current needs and conditions and who also looks to the future. 

Interestingly, Merriam-Webster’s online thesaurus does not contain an entry for activist.  Microsoft Word’s built in thesaurus, however, suggests several appealing synonyms: forward-looking, innovative, advocate. 

A vulnerabilities activist works to stay on top of emerging risks and also works within the enterprise to review existing—and historical—procedures, business models, technology, and training to identify and reduce downsides while increasing the upside consequences of where risk taking is a good business move.

Every enterprise has vulnerabilities.  In this context “vulnerabilities” are conditions and situations that do or might interfere with the enterprise’s ability to achieve its goals. For this process, the vulnerabilities faced by for-profit companies and nonprofit enterprises are remarkably similar: uncertain revenue/funding streams, legal and regulatory changes, local zoning laws, ability to reach target markets/clientele, qualified employees, and, of course, cyberthreats and physical security. In addition, every organization, company, and enterprise—whether for profit or not-for-profit—has unique vulnerabilities to explore and assess.

Risks that can hurt any enterprise

For any and every organization: Be risk aware! Make sure that you have controls and procedures in place for the handling of confidential employee and compensation systems. On September 18, 2018, for example, the FBI issued Alert Number I-091818-PSA describing “Social Engineering Techniques To Obtain Employee Credentials To Conduct Payroll Diversion.” Mitigating steps include Internet firewalls, anti-spam software tools, increasing employee awareness on avoiding attacks, and  standard management controls on changes to payroll information. Always, establishing and enforcing clear procedures and authorities around any process that includes money can thwart such attempts.

Make sure that legally required processes and core insurance policies are in place: For example, money withheld from payrolls or collected as sales taxes must be paid in a timely fashion. Meet with a couple of insurance brokers to make sure that the firm is up to date on primary insurance policies such as workers’ compensation, general liability, and property coverage. Consider cyber insurance to cover the risk of losses via online operations as well as hacking or other loss of internally held data files. Firms with multiple owners and senior decision makers should price “directors and officers” (D&O) insurance and “key person” life insurance policies. Make sure you have more than one person who can cover all core functions… just in case. In a two-person firm this can be hard. In a larger firm, designate key back-up responsibilities.

Risks specific to your enterprise
Because the risks relevant to each organization differ from those of every other enterprise, planning how to reduce them will vary as well. All businesses along an ocean waterfront might face equal risk of flooding, but a food stand will lose more merchandise when electricity fails than will a t-shirt store. A business based on personal integrity, such as a medical practice or law firm, likely faces higher cost of reputational damage than, say, a bookstore.

A few questions to ask about your enterprise: What are your primary assets and relationships, what are they worth to you, do they have value to others, what would happen if they were lost or compromised? How are these primary assets — be they physical inventory, customer records, proprietary formulae, reputation, buildings, or land — backed up? Insured? Duplicate or triplicate files on site and in remote storage? Physical locks and keys? 

Corporate culture matters! 
Do your employees know which risks you want them to take or avoid? This applies to everyone, from core product development and production to internal operations to financial staff to customer service. Do employees report problems, potential problems, or problems avoided? If you know about potential and avoided problems you can change processes to avoid them in the future. Do company incentives support or undermine your preferences?  Over the past few years, for example, a number of executive and middle managers at Wells Fargo Bank were forced out by scandals tied to pay incentives that rewarded untoward activities. These badly damaged the bank’s reputation.  Actions, expectations, and rewards that don’t align create unnecessary risk.

Create a Vulnerabilities Activist Mindset
No small or mid-sized business owner or nonprofit director will spend time on a risk management review that feels like a paperwork exercise. Large firms should more easily institutionalize review processes. With less formality, mid-sized and smaller entities can also effectively use risk reviews. Once a year, have a conversation with all staff or representatives of all departments to identify internal and external factors that have changed and discuss whether these have introduced new risks or opportunities…or both. Gather views from across the enterprise to illuminate risks that senior managers might not see. Ask external advisors and board members to raise issues from their experience that might undermine the firm. Once a year, ask your insurance carrier to review coverage and services. Every so often — maybe every two to five years — ask another insurer to propose coverage to see if you’ve missed something. Finally, discuss the assessment and steps to address uncomfortable vulnerabilities with your board of directors.  Be forward-looking and innovative. Advocate for future success by paying attention to current and evolving issues. 

Michele Braun is Director, Institute for Managing Risk, School of Professional Studies at Manhattanville College. She can be reached at or 914-323-1238.

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