grads find super careers at Wegmans
Alumni who move away
from the Rochester area harbor fond memories of one local institution:
Wegmans Food Markets.
There's good news
for some of the many who've wished the Rochester-based supermarket
chain would open a store near them. Wegmans, which operates 63
superstores in New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, plans to
open stores in the Baltimore, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.,
areas in the next several years.
|Gerard Pierce '77 (left) and James
Leo '76 have worked for Wegmans since their college days.
Today, they're among the company's top executives.
RIT alumni play a role
in the company's tremendous success. Wegmans employs more
than 100 graduates, including two among the 15 senior vice presidents
in the family-owned company. Gerard Pierce '77 (MBA), senior
vice president for human resources, started working for Wegmans
in 1975. James Leo '79 (MBA), senior vice president and chief
financial officer, joined the company in 1978.
Pierce, who grew up
in the Rochester area, had an undergraduate degree in marketing
from the University of Dayton and experience in the insurance
industry as well as at his father's grocery store when he
joined Wegmans. He took a job as a store night manager while attending
RIT, where he focused his studies on human resources management.
After graduation, he
was ready to move into the company's human resources department.
The responsibilities have expanded geographically as well as geometrically.
When I came here,
there were 3,000 employees, he notes. Now there are
30,000. In the next five years, the company will be hiring
Pierce, who reports
to company President Danny Wegman, says the company has been successful
in this continuing effort because of the Wegman family philosophy:
They always put people first, he says.
evidence of this: The company has been named one of the Top
100 Companies to Work for in America by Fortune magazine
for five years in a row. We're very proud of that,
RIT benefits from one
of Wegmans' employee benefits. Since 1996, recipients of
Wegmans scholarships attending RIT have received $925,000 to fund
their studies. Wegmans began the scholarship program in 1984.
Wegmans and RIT are
also partners in the Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection, which
now involves nearly 1,000 youngsters. Founded in 1987 by Wegmans,
the program links at-risk adolescents to a network of advocates
and employers, support that helps the youngsters stay in school
and find success. RIT offers scholarships to participants who
are accepted at RIT.
Funding such projects
and the company's many other community activities relates
directly to Jim Leo's primary responsibility.
My job is to
increase the profitability of the company, he explains.
Leo, another area native,
received his undergraduate degree in accounting from St. John
Fisher College. His first job at Wegmans was as cash manager in
the corporate office. He says the practical, applied emphasis
of his MBA courses at RIT helped him develop a gut feel
for business, and an understanding of the people part.
Gerry and Jim
have made outstanding contributions to Wegmans' success over
the years, says Danny Wegman. Like our family and
our company, they both have deep roots in the Rochester community.
And so does RIT. Wegmans and RIT are connected through the many
students and graduates who work here. In fact, my daughter, Nicole,
has just begun her MBA studies at RIT this fall. Obviously, we're
sold on RIT.
Leo and Pierce both
say that when they started out with Wegmans, they couldn't
have imagined where their careers would take them.
I took a job
that was available in a field I was interested in, for a company
that sounded interesting, says Leo. It's turned
out to be even more interesting than I thought.
Says Pierce, It's
always challenging, and there's always opportunity for growth.
It's a great place to shop and a great place to work.