Sharp Focus, Big Value: “Niche” Programs at SJU
by John Lord, Ph.D., ’71, professor emeritus
As a student majoring in food marketing who entered Saint Joseph’s in 1967, one year after the first graduating class in that very unique program, I was part of the early growth stage of niche business programs at SJU. I distinctly remember students from other colleges asking me if we had courses like “Introduction to Broccoli.” My, how times have changed.
It’s been nearly 60 years since visionary and Syracuse, New York, wholesaler James O’Connor recognized a void in collegiate offerings — not one college or university in the 1950s had an academic program to prepare food industry leaders. O’Connor enlisted the support of two Philadelphia food merchants, Herman Heim (of Unity-Frankford Grocers) and Meyer Marcus (of Food Fair Stores), to create such a program in their home city.
Drawn to O’Connor’s vision to focus the program on educating the future of the industry while addressing world hunger, the Jesuits of Saint Joseph’s approved the creation of the Academy of Food Marketing in 1960, and the four-year undergraduate major became official in 1962.
In 1986, Nicholas Rashford, S.J., came to SJU as president and immediately ordered the business school faculty to develop an Executive MBA program. Formalized in 1990, the EMBA started us on the path to executive education.
The early ’90s saw the formation of additional specialty programs: the M.S. in international marketing, the executive food marketing master’s program, the pharmaceutical & healthcare marketing master’s program and the undergraduate major in pharmaceutical marketing. The success of each program began building upon one another.
As dean of the Haub School from 1987 to 1992 (then the College of Business and Administration), I had the pleasure of working with a talented and driven collection of faculty members who brought these programs to life, and as associate dean of graduate business programs (1998-2000), I saw our graduate enrollment grow year after year.
Since that time, the Haub School has launched additional industry-focused programs in risk management & insurance; financial services; managing human capital; family business and entrepreneurship; leadership, ethics and organizational sustainability; sports marketing and entertainment marketing. In any number of these programs, students follow curricula and complete internships or Co-op education experiences designed by academic experts and industry executives to provide them with a unique knowledge and skill set.
Having taught for many years in the food and sports marketing programs at Saint Joseph’s, I’ve seen how our graduates’ understanding of the structure and operations of their industries makes them attractive to employers and allows them to excel in their careers. Students like Chris Furman ’81, whose degree in food marketing and values he derived from his experience on Hawk Hill led to a highly successful career, culminating in his appointment as CEO of Ventura Foods; and Gerianne Tringali DiPiano ’92 (MBA), president and CEO of FemmePharma Global Healthcare, who was one of the first graduates of our MBA in pharmaceutical and healthcare marketing. More recently, sports marketing major Shaun Gallagher ’13 progressed to a management role with the Philadelphia Union because of the resume he built at SJU. These three professionals represent only a fraction of the hundreds of niche program success stories.
At a time when many small and medium-sized private schools are struggling for students, the Haub School remains the largest Jesuit business school, and continues to thrive. The scope and variety of educational opportunities we offer and our willingness to take risks and offer these programs has been a key part of that success. I’ve enjoyed being a part of that.
"The scope and variety of educational opportunities we offer and our willingness to take risks and offer these programs has been a key part of that success. I’ve enjoyed being a part of that." John Lord, Ph.D., ’71