Like all Colleges and most non-profit organizations, Saint Anselm College has a Board of Trustees. These individuals oversee the institution’s budget, help shape and ensure implementation of the mission, approve new programs and support existing ones, and assist in raising the funds necessary for the institution to thrive. The Saint Anselm College Board has a number of history majors. One Thing After Another caught up with two of them, James L. Hauser, Esq., ’91 and John A. Vaccaro,’92 to ask about life on, after, and back on the Hilltop.
Q: What drew you to the history department when you came to the Hilltop?
John Vaccaro: I didn’t become a history major until my junior year. I received some great advice that your undergraduate work should focus on something that you are eager to learn about and have a passion for. Growing up in Boston, I was surrounded by history and spent a lot of time with my family exploring the area and experiencing the rich history the area offers. I wanted to learn more and to this day, I love to learn and experience history. I have been fortunate enough to visit many of the places around the world that I studied during my time at St. A’s.
Jim Hauser: I love to read and had a great AP American History teacher in high school who helped steer me to Saint Anselm. I was very focused on majoring in history when I came to Saint Anselm.
John Vaccaro ’92
Q: What class/experience/professor do you remember most from your time in the department?
Jim: I enjoyed taking Eastern European history with Pajakowski , Capowiski’s Civil War and War and Revolution courses as well as Windhausen for Russian History. My memories of my history courses was of much reading and writing, which continues to serve me well.
John: Professor Vincent Capowski’s US Presidency and Civil War and Reconstruction were my two favorite classes and still areas where I enjoy reading about today. Professor Capowski always returned graded tests in order of best to worst and addressed everyone by either Mr. or Ms. Today, when I recognize my sales professionals, I do the same thing in honor of Professor Capowski’s unyielding desire for his students to do their best.
Q: What was your career path when you left the Hilltop?
Jim: I went directly to law school at Loyola University School of Law and then subsequently to Boston University School of Law for an LLM in tax law and then back to Boston College for a MBA in my late 20s while working.
John: I joined the investment business shortly after graduating in May 1992. Colonial Investments was one of the oldest mutual fund companies in the United States with a long and successful history. It was a great place to start and learn the business. The early years were spent doing what every new person does in our business – work long hard hours, study for your securities exams, listen, do what you are told and get paid barely enough to live on. I had a great mentor, who taught me early on, to get as many different experiences as soon as you can because the leaders of the future are going to need to know a lot more than the leaders of today.
I took that advice and took every “less than desirable” career development opportunity and started to learn. I developed my own liberal arts education within financial services. I have only worked for a handful of companies but have had countless different experiences. Eleven years ago, I joined Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company “MassMutual,” one of the oldest financial services companies in the United States, and have been fortunate enough to use my skills in helping our company achieve great success during turbulent times.
Q: What are you doing professionally now?
John: I am head of MassMutual Financial Advisors and lead one of the largest and oldest distribution networks in the United States. I have a great team comprised of over 9,000 financial professionals located in every state and Puerto Rico. I also manage a team of over a thousand home office employees who are the best in the business. We have been helping people secure their future and protect the ones they love since before the Civil War. My kids ask me all the time, “Dad, what do you do every day?” It is a tough question to answer because the higher up you go in an organization, the less tangible things you do. My kids know that I spend a lot of time on the road meeting with the members of the organization that I lead. They hear me on the phone and nowadays checking my iPhone. They know I am always connecting with someone about something. However, my real responsibilities are to help set the strategy, be the messenger, eliminate problems and most importantly – recruit the best teammates possible and be there to support them. Surrounding yourself with the best possible people is a hallmark of an effective leader.
Jim: I am a partner in a corporate law firm in Boston where we represent Venture Capital Funds and high growth technology and life science companies. I focus primarily on issues related to equity compensation and executive compensation matters.
Jim Hauser ’91
Q: How do you use the skills you learned in your history major? What was the biggest skill you had to develop after leaving college?
Jim: The ability to read and process large blocks of information and to organize my thoughts and ideas. My writing was a major area of continued development in law school.
John: Early on in my career, the ability to read quickly, learn the material, and be able to clearly communicate the main thesis of the material was critical. Every good employer is going to train you, but you must have the ability and desire to learn. In the investment world, understanding trends is critical to what you do every day. As my career evolved, my liberal arts education provided me with the ability to adapt to many different topics. I was a Chief Marketing Officer once and having a history degree was great for that role. This role was the chief story teller for the company. Studying history is all about reading a story that has already happened, but you get the opportunity to interpret those events. Everyone sees the same facts, but historians are all entitled to their own opinions on how these facts impacted people and places. In today’s economy, you need to understand how political, technological, and economic events will impact the business marketplace. A history degree provides you with the tool to understand those events and react to the changing landscape.
As a leader of a large organization, I continue to read about the leaders that shaped our nation. You can learn a lot of the good things they did, but I encourage you to pay particular attention to the things that they did poorly. You can learn a lot from the mistakes of the past. A bad decision is only a bad decision if you fail to react when you figure out it is a bad decision or if you have made this poor decision before – learn from and remember your personal history.
My career sends me all over the country. I quickly realized that my “authentic” Boston accent was tough for people outside this area to understand. I had to learn really quickly to pronounce my “r”s. You want people to listen to you for what you are saying and not for how you are saying it.
Q: How did you end up on the BOT? How do you see yourself particularly contributing in the next few years?
Jim: I have been on the Board for approximately 7 years and am honored to have an opportunity to play a small role in Saint Anselm’s continued evolution as a Catholic, Benedictine liberal arts college. The College is on a great upward trajectory, but competes in an extremely competitive and crowded marketplace in New England. The College needs to continue to evolve and strive for excellence in all aspects (i.e., new majors, experiential learning and community service).
John: I actually first served on the BOT in 1992 while I was Class President. Back then, they had a student and faculty representative. I have known Steve Ellis ‘69, another board member, since I was a student and had the pleasure of working with him at The Hartford. He and I had lunch one day and he said “Ok, it is time for you to get back involved.” The one thing you will realize with St. A’s is whenever someone from the college calls you – you do everything you can to say yes and help them out. As you graduate, you will be amazed at how strong of connection everyone has to the school. I love hiring St A’s graduates, especially history majors!
Q: I find it really fascinating that there are currently at least four former history majors on the Board? Do you think it says anything in particular?
John: I will give Professor Pajakowski all the credit for this one! I believe a history degree provides a tremendous amount of flexibility in the career you want to pursue. A history degree accelerated my career because I was a quick learner and an even better communicator. The ability to learn and then quickly teach others is a skill set that is not as common in the workplace as it should be. I encourage everyone to spend more time communicating and sharing what you learned. The successful 21st Century leader will be great communicators and they will need to understand all the different ways in which to connect with your clients, employees, constituents, associates and probably robots at some point in the future.
Jim: Although it may be a coincidence, I am sure it is due to the high quality of teaching in the history department!