From Rutgers Student to the CFO of a Fortune 100 Company

Harvey M. Schwartz


Bill Bernstein

When he became chief financial officer at Goldman Sachs last year, Harvey Schwartz moved into a glass-walled suite on the 41st floor of the firm’s building in lower Manhattan. His view extends across the Hudson River and deep into his home state. “Not quite to New Brunswick,” he says, pointing toward where Rutgers rests just over the horizon. Although not directly in view, Schwartz LC’87 hasn’t lost sight of the university. “They took a chance on me,” he says, “and I want to repay my obligation to them.”

Schwartz says he was an indifferent student from Morris Township, New Jersey, whose college prospects were slim when he was admitted to Livingston College at Rutgers University–New Brunswick. “I guess you could say that I wasn’t the best student when I was in high school,” he says. “But whatever person I was when I started at Rutgers, I was dramatically changed by the time I graduated.”

The transformation started in Lucy Stone Hall during his first economics lecture. “Mathematics, with the overlay of social and behavioral dynamics, immediately hooked me,” he says. “It’s where I learned to love learning.”

He also learned how to work multiple jobs to pay his way: framing houses for a construction company; cutting meat in a butcher shop; and, because he stands an imposing 6-4, guarding the door as a bouncer at the now defunct Roxy in New Brunswick. In his junior and senior years, he also became a resident assistant. “It was about leadership and teamwork, and having responsibility at a young age,” he says of the experience. “You’re the one who doesn’t let the parties get too loud.”

After graduation Schwartz tried a couple of different jobs before landing at Citicorp in 1989, where his career in finance began to take shape. He earned an executive M.B.A. from Columbia in 1996 and then joined the currencies and commodities business of Goldman Sachs in 1997. By 2002, he had been made one of the firm’s partners. He was named chief financial officer in 2013.

He attributes his success to the foundation that Rutgers provided. He wants its current and future students to have the same chances. His involvement with the university is now two-pronged. He sponsors initiatives that directly benefit the students while he cultivates what he calls a “culture of giving” among alumni. He strives to encourage the private sector to help fill gaps left by state budget cuts and to help ensure that students with academic promise but financial challenges are not left behind. “We as alumni need to do a better job of supporting the university, in monetary and nonmonetary ways,” he says.

His own nonmonetary contributions include his role as chair of the Wall Street Leadership Committee, in which he has been a vigorous advocate of connecting Rutgers undergraduates with summer internships and graduating seniors with job opportunities in the financial industry through the Rutgers on Wall Street Initiative. His monetary contributions include an endowed scholarship covering the tuition and fees for students attending the School of Arts and Sciences who, as he once did, need help paying the cost of their education. Four students are chosen annually by Rutgers; there are now 16 Schwartz Scholars.

A photograph from a recent dinner he hosted for the current recipients at Stage Left restaurant in New Brunswick sits on a shelf directly across from his desk. “Have dinner with 16 young people like that, listen to them talk about their hopes and dreams, and you’ll feel pretty good about the world,” he says. — Kevin Coyne

Open Sesame

Rosemarie T. Truglio, who heads up curriculum development for Sesame Street, arrived at the children’s television show by way of Douglass College—and a lot of hard work.

Rosemarie T. Truglio at Sesame Street


Benoit Cortet

The story of how Rosemarie T. Truglio got to Sesame Street is brought to you by the letters A and D and the number 17. The A is for ambition: growing up above her father’s butcher shop in Hoboken, New Jersey, Truglio DC’83 always knew she wanted a college education and a satisfying career. She was the youngest of three children and the first in her family to attend college.

The D is for Douglass, the college at Rutgers she chose and the first step on a path that led to her position as senior vice president of curriculum and content at Sesame Workshop, where she has spent the last 17 years. Truglio is responsible for the development of the curriculum on which Sesame Street is based, and she provides curriculum and content guidance for all Sesame Workshop coproductions around the world.

“If I didn’t have Douglass, I’m not quite sure I would be here,” says Truglio. Much of her success can be traced to her undergraduate mentor, psychology professor Carolyn Rovee-Collier. She trained Truglio in infant-memory research, gave her an opportunity to expand the research to preschoolers, and urged her to apply to a graduate program at the University of Kansas, where there was a center devoted to research on media and children. There, Truglio earned a Ph.D. in child and developmental psychology.

While at the University of Kansas, Truglio met Valeria Lovelace, a former postdoc who had gone on to Truglio’s current position at Sesame Workshop. When an assistant professor position at Columbia University’s Teacher’s College brought Truglio to New York City, where Sesame Workshop is based, she worked with Lovelace to create an internship program for her students. By the time a position opened at Sesame, Truglio had a solid understanding of the role, and she won over her recruiters. She was hired as director of content and research in 1997.

Today, Truglio’s job is to identify children’s critical educational needs and oversee the creation of content to meet them. Her work encompasses many forms of media and reaches 150 nations. For Sesame Street in particular, she establishes each season’s curriculum theme and works closely with the show’s writers to develop new characters and segments. Super Grover 2.0, for instance, was created to highlight scientific investigation and a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) curriculum. Most of the writers are comedy writers, and the humor has an educational purpose, too. “Those little jokes, the placement of celebrities, the parodies are there because we want to bring the parent into this viewing situation,” Truglio says. When parents watch alongside their children, they take the learning further. And through human cast members and other adult characters, the show models parent-child interaction.

Truglio was part of the team that created Abby Cadabby, a 3-year-old fairy-in-training for whom Sesame Street is a fascinating new world. Her magic doesn’t always work, so she has to employ “twinkle thinking” and other strategies not found in fairy tales. “I don’t want little girls to think that problems get solved by magic,” says Truglio. “They get solved by your thinking skills. They get solved by your perseverance. They get solved by your hard work.” — Lara De Meo Hoyt RC'97

Nice Work, If You Can Get It

Playwright and lyricist Joseph G. DiPietro, a Tony Award winner, thrives in the world of theater by virtue of his eclectic body of work that includes musicals and plays.

playwright and lyricist Joseph G. DiPietro with his dog


Bill Bernstein

Memphis, winner of the Tony Award for Best Musical in 2010, was hailed by the Associated Press as “the very essence of what a Broadway musical should be,” an exuberant and rousing tale from the 1950s. I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, the second longest-running musical in Off-Broadway history, is a hilarious take on love and relationships. And the play Over the River and Through the Woods tells the story of a young man breaking away from his family. The not-so-tenuous connection between these works? They’ve all been hits, winning awards and thrilling audiences, and their stories come from the imagination of the playwright and lyricist Joseph G. DiPietro. Sometimes, DiPietro RC’84 hears people say they’ve seen a number of his plays, and they wouldn’t know they were from the same writer. “To me, that’s a big compliment,” he says. “I have a firm belief as a writer that you have to constantly reinvent yourself.”

But before the reinvention, there’s the invention. For DiPietro, who grew up just a short bus ride from New York (in Oradell, New Jersey), the theater was never particularly intimidating. In the 1970s, when he was a teenager, his family would go to the city to see shows, typically musicals such as 1776. Back at home, DiPietro sought more adventurous fare at the local library, finding “all of these very modern, and, for a kid from New Jersey, edgy and dangerous types of plays” (Equus, That Championship Season). DiPietro even won a national Scholastic Writing Award and attended an awards dinner at the Algonquin Hotel, famous for its literary gatherings, sitting next to Jerzy Kosinski, who had gained acclaim from the film version of his novel Being There.

Other awards followed—although the progression wasn’t exactly a straight line from Scholastic to the Tony. DiPietro, who lives on the Upper West Side in Manhattan, worked as a writer for CBS Sports and then for an ad agency, even hanging on to freelance copywriting a year after I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change made it to New York. A comedic and decidedly human core reverberates through DiPietro’s work, but there’s no doubt that his successes, including two Tony Awards (for Best Book and Best Score) for Memphis, have allowed him to take more risks with his work. Clever Little Lies, starring Marlo Thomas, debuted at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick—a play about infidelity and secrets that’s a definite departure from Memphis and another hit musical comedy, Nice Work If You Can Get It, winner of the Drama Desk Award. “I’m expanding what I do,” DiPietro notes, “the tone of it, the edginess of it.”

And yet, no matter what the material, even if it’s a mystery (as in The Art of Murder), his love of writing comes through in his work. “It’s what I love to do,” he says. “A really good day, for me, is when I’m very focused, I don’t have a lot of outside distractions, and I can really write for a few hours.” Though he is “a big believer that writing is rewriting,” he also loves the thrill of an initial draft. “I try to write freely, without judgment, without self-criticism, and without fear,” he says. “That’s my favorite time.” — Allan Hoffman

The (New) Avon Lady

Since taking over at Avon, Sheri McCoy is turning around the global beauty company, showing the leadership that has made her one of the nation’s top businesswomen.

Sheri McCoy in her office at Avon


Joe Henson

In her three decades at Johnson & Johnson, Sheri McCoy earned a reputation as a team-builder, a talent she’s no doubt putting to excellent use in her present position. As CEO of Avon Products, Inc., McCoy RBS’88 finds herself leading one of the biggest teams on the planet—the six million independent representatives who sell the direct-marketing company’s products worldwide.  

Before McCoy took over at Avon in April 2012, there was speculation that the troubled company might not make it through 2013. Clearly, the speculators were wrong, and if anyone can right the Avon ship, it’s the woman who, Businessweek reported, “has an ability to quickly settle on a strategy, get rid of problem players, and align the rest around a common mission.” Her business acumen helped vault her onto Fortune’s elite “50 Most Powerful Women in Business” list.

McCoy wasn’t always a business powerhouse. With a master’s degree in chemical engineering from Princeton University, she started her career with Johnson & Johnson as an associate scientist in the company’s personal-products division. Three months into the job, she got her first lesson in crisis management after seven people in the Chicago area died from ingesting cyanide-laced Tylenol, a Johnson & Johnson product. The incident temporarily moved her from research and development into other areas of the business as the workforce scrambled to address the problem and reassure a frightened public. Suddenly, the scientist was learning “how to manage a crisis situation but do it in the right way from a consumer standpoint.”

McCoy found herself increasingly drawn to the marketing end of the business but realized she lacked a certain amount of technical training. While working at Johnson & Johnson, she enrolled in Rutgers’ M.B.A. program. After getting her degree in 1988, she ascended the Johnson & Johnson ranks, helping to reshape and regrow the company’s pharmaceutical business at a time when it was struggling with the expiration of several lucrative patents. After nearly 30 years with the company, she rose to the vaulted position of the vice chair of the Executive Committee. Much of what helped make her a success—including her passionate advocacy of diversity of thought—she learned, or honed, at Rutgers, where teamwork was an intrinsic part of her business education.

She’s taken that same approach to Avon, traveling to the company’s major markets in nations like Brazil and South Africa to meet with sales representatives and discover what motivates them. Although she’ll no doubt have to make tough business choices—she recently shut down operations in Avon’s low-performing Irish market—it’s the people she works with and represents who, in the end, motivate her. On a recent trip to the Philippines, she met an Avon sales representative who shared her story of business success: thanks to her job with Avon, she told McCoy, she was able to build a church for her village and send her sons to college. That was when McCoy had what she calls her “wow” moment: “I thought,” she says, “I have a huge responsibility because these people are depending on Avon, and depending on me to help turn the business around.” For a team-builder, the incentive—like the stakes—couldn’t be much higher. — Leslie Garisto Pfaff

Some Like It Not So Hot

Daniel C. Reda made big contributions to U.S. space exploration, including the science that prevents vehicles from incinerating upon reentry into a planet’s atmosphere.


Seamus Venecko

After a career spanning the most exciting developments in U.S. space exploration—the rise of NASA, the Apollo missions, the Galileo mission to Jupiter, the advent of the space shuttle—Daniel C. Reda feels it’s time for some closure. So his induction into the Rutgers Hall of Distinguished Alumni comes at the perfect hour for Reda ENG’65, GSNB’67,’69, honored for his contributions to the science of fluid dynamics, vehicle aerodynamics, and reentry physics.

Yet, Reda sees his career in humbler terms, and he sees himself as a man who simply found a way to earn a living doing something he loved at a time when it was valued. “I just became enthralled with the whole idea of space,” says Reda. “I started a scrapbook when I was in high school with all the newspaper articles from every launch. So when I went off to college, it was clear to me that I was going to get involved in that field, if I could.”

Leaving Rutgers in 1969 with a doctorate in mechanical engineering, Reda conducted research at the Naval Ordnance Laboratory in Maryland and, later, NASA’s research center in Silicon Valley to determine how manned, robotic, or weapons-based vehicles could move through the air at excessive speeds without burning up. 

When a vehicle reenters an atmosphere, it encounters friction. Reda’s task was to figure out how the consequent heat could be managed through material design while protecting the payload—whether it was a nuclear weapon or a cadre of astronauts—without adding heat-deflecting material, and its weight, to the vehicle. It was a delicate balance, Reda says, and represented a new field of research.

When the Galileo mission sent a probe into Jupiter’s atmosphere in 1995 traveling at a velocity of 30,000 to 40,000 feet per second—“the hottest reentry” ever—the probe’s heat shield had been designed to Reda’s specifications. It barely survived the trip, coming to within several millimeters of burning through. But it survived. The initial shield, designed before he weighed in, would never have lasted, Reda says, and the probe would have gone up in flames.

Reflecting on the factors that contributed to his successes, Reda hits a skeptical note. Science takes time, and a great deal of seed money. That sense of long-term purpose is missing in today’s science and technology research, which he sees as emphasizing a profit instead of a contribution.

“The ability to study something and learn something and develop something new comes when you work in an environment where the agency, like NASA, is willing to pay you to explore,” he says. “Most companies won’t do that; they’re trying to make money. It’s the same in the health sciences. You want to cure a disease? You don’t do that in a one-year chunk. You do it over 10 years, over 20 years.

“But think,” he continues, with something like stars in his eyes, “of the payoff.” — Wendy Plump