Tufts graduate, trustee, and CEO of Aramark Joe Neubauer Friday delivered the second in a series of lectures as a part of President DiBiaggio’s “Community Forum on Leadership for Active Citizenship” this semester. Neubauer focused his speech on giving back to the community as an essential part of leadership in the business world.
Though Neubauer is the CEO of Aramark – the company that brings food service to 400 universities, 1,300 businesses, and 200 sports stadiums – he is not in the food business at all; he is in the business of giving back, he said.
Neubauer, the recipient of the Horatio Alger award, which is given to “men and women who have faced and overcome significant personal adversity through hard work, integrity, determination, and a strong dedication to helping others.” But, Neubauer himself emphasized in his speech that he is far from a self-made man.
“You learn very early that you can’t do things on your own,” he said. “You’ve got to have a community around you.”
Neubauer’s personal history exemplifies the power of community to create extraordinary individuals. Born to Holocaust survivors, Neubauer immigrated to the US from Israel by himself at age 14. His high school principal, who he credits for directing him towards Tufts, taught him English. Once at Tufts, though, he found himself captivated by the study of economics.
From Tufts, Neubauer was encouraged by an extraordinary economics professor to study at University of Chicago, and from there he was able to secure a job at Chase Manhattan Bank. The rest is corporate history.
Aramark is now an $8 billion business, one of the largest in the country that specializes in food and support services, uniform and career apparel, and, on a smaller level, educational resources. Neubauer said that the greatest challenge of his business has nothing to do with daily operations but rather with determining how best to interact with the varied communities that Aramark serves.
The most visible and significant way in which Neubauer has accomplished this feat is philanthropic activity. Aramark works closely with such charitable organizations as Big Brother/Big Sister, Reading is Fundamental, and People of Service. He has also endowed Tufts and University of Chicago with both the Neubauer Chair of Economics and the Neubauer Scholarship Program.
Yannis Ioannides, Tufts’ holder of the Neubauer Chair, introduced the trustee, saying calling Neubauer “a shining example of the contributions entrepreneurial talent can make.”
Of his own work with non-profit and charitable organizations, Neubauer said, “Rewards come from seeing other people succeed.”
From watching the immigrant-turned billionaire succeed, Tufts has reaped the benefits of his generosity, both financially and through the time he has given to the community. Neubauer’s lecture was a unique opportunity to learn from a man who has taken the combination of civic and corporate leadership to a new level.
“Joe Neubauer continues to give back and that is what leadership is all about,” DiBiaggio said.
“It’s amazing that he runs such a successful business,” freshman Jay Meattle said. “You don’t see companies like this every day.” As to the benefits of hearing Neubauer’s take on civic leadership, Meattle said, “You won’t get this information otherwise. It’s a rare opportunity to hear him.”
Neubauer’s lecture, however, did not reach a large audience. As opposed to the first Community Forum lecture, which was held in the large venue of Barnum 008, Neubauer delivered his address in Barnum 104, a smaller arena.
In recognition of his varied accomplishments and involvement at Tufts, a number of campus organizations sponsored the lecture. The University College of Citizenship and Public Service, the Economics Department, the Entrepreneurial Leadership Program of the School of Engineering, the Political Science Department, the Department of Urban and Environment Policy and Planning, the Hillel Foundation, and the Tufts University Alumni Association all demonstrated their enthusiasm for Neubauer’s contributions to both the corporate community and the Tufts community by funding Neubauer’s appearance.