The grounds of Paola’s shaky voice begin to reveal the rough path she followed to receive a full-ride to Columbia University. Paola Cruz, 26, is an undergraduate at Columbia University, though her story starts in the Philippines. After being diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, an immune disorder also known as an overactive thyroid that causes anxiety, palpitations, […]
Sitting in his C-building office, Mark Healy’s eyes glistened with excitement as he vividly explained how going from being a cargo driver for John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) to working on Wall Street groomed him to become LaGuardia’s new Vice President of Adult and Continuing Education (ACE).
For Mr. Healy, this is a homecoming. Thirty-seven years ago, he was an accounting major at LaGuardia Community College (LaGCC).
It was only a matter of time before Mr. Healy, who grew up in Jamaica, Queens, made the choice of attending LaGCC. Coming from a family of five and experiencing his father’s death at the early age of ten, Mr. Healy was forced to become the man of the house. Soon enough, he landed a job driving cargo trucks for JFK.
Not wanting to fall into the “blue-collared” lifestyle, as he describes it, Mr. Healy decided to go for his Associate of Science degree in accounting. “LaGuardia came up on my radar. I think I read it in a newspaper or something on the train or a bus, and I saw that you can get paid internships and that was a big draw, so I applied to all the CUNY schools, but I really wanted to go to LaGuardia from that perspective,” Mr. Healy explains.
Crediting LaGCC for what was the beginning of his success, Mr. Healy reveals, “Going from JFK to LaGuardia, no pun intended, was a focal point in my life because it allowed me to do things that changed my life, not just my career but my life because it put me on a career path that took away all of the impediments that I previously had and left it up to me to figure out the rest.”
Being able to work in corporate America was a huge deal for Mr. Healy at the early age of 18. It taught him proper work ethics, but something as simple as putting on a suit and working with other colleagues in the same field was what he describes as “nothing I’ve ever experienced before.”
Years ago, LaGCC required students to be involved in a minimum of two internships. Mr. Healy became reacquainted with LaGCC because of his desire to offer LaGuardians the same opportunities he had when he was an attendee by offering internships through his company. Some would say he’s come full circle.
After graduating from LaGCC in 1983, Mr. Healy then went on to receive his Bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance from Long Island University in 1985. The following year, he began working for a CPA firm as a brokerage auditor on Wall Street. His years of knowledge in the industry peeked through when he began to explain his job title. He says, “I started learning about Wall Street and how the brokerage industry worked, and there were different terms back then. Today it’s financial services. Now you hear about robo-advisors, digital advising, all these terms, but basically it’s the same thing dating back a very long time. I learned how the New York Stock Exchange worked and how trading works and how bonds were issued, things like that.”
As a result of the infamous ’87 stock market crash, the firm let him go and he began working for one of his clients in the World Trade Center as a Financial Controller. Mr. Healy notes, “I did all the profit and loss for all the traders. There were 50 traders that traded all different types of securities and every day, I used to sort of check out with them in the morning before we opened up for trading and would make sure I recorded what they actually gained or lost so that we could start trading again.” He describes this point of his life as a “monumental moment,” considering that at the age of 25, he was responsible for significant functions and numbers.
From 1995 to 2002, he became the Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer of TD Bank and Securities USA, where he built the trading practice from scratch and recruited new members, all while assisting his wife with their newborn triplets. He praises TD for being “a great organization that I have tremendous amount of respect for.”
He built a big name for himself, intriguing the heads of Fidelity Investments, who recruited Mr. Healy to structure their firm as well. Immediately following the catastrophic 9/11 disaster, he moved himself and his family to Boston to take on the position of Head of Client Management and Sales. “I took them from 100 broker dealers to 350 broker dealers in the matter of four years which was a substantial amount of growth,” recalls Mr. Healy, as he reminisced about the progress he gained for the company. Later, he moved back to Brooklyn to take another company to its highest potential.
In 2011, a letter from LaGuardia Community College greeted him in his Brooklyn office, asking him to purchase a 40-year anniversary book. After reliving some of his memories through the book, Mr. Healy decided to send out a letter to LaGCC President Gail Mellow offering internships within his company to provide future LaGuardians with the same opportunities he was provided while an attendee.
Before meeting with President Mellow to discuss his ideas, he was greeted by LaGuardia’s President’s Society and looks back on the remarkable stories told by the students regarding their struggles to obtain their own Associate degree. “The first gentleman said, ‘I came here from China two years ago. I couldn’t speak a word of English, and I went into McDonald’s one morning and ordered breakfast. They gave me a Big Mac, but I didn’t want a Big Mac for breakfast, obviously. But I didn’t know how to tell them I didn’t want it ‘cause I couldn’t speak English, but I ate it anyway. Two years later, obviously I can speak pure English and I am going to Columbia, full-ride.’” Mr. Healy adds, “Now I’m like, ‘Okay, wait. Stop. Go back again, I think I missed something.’ And it went on and on, and every person down the line had an amazing story.”
Upon meeting with President Mellow, Mr. Healy, astonished, reiterated the story to her, and she simply replied, “you are the poster-child of what has to happen here at LaGuardia, and as you can see, that’s already happening.” During that same meeting, she asked him to help promote that cause. He agreed and went on to offer internships for students through his company, speak on President Mellow’s behalf, and raise money for the college.
In 2012, he was brought on to the LaGCC Foundation Board and was functioning as an active board member. An annual gala took place during 2014, where an anonymous donor agreed to donate $1 million if the college raised $500,000. Mr. Healy helped raise the money, making use of all of his networking connections in the process. In the end, they were able to raise $750,000 and received the $1 mllion.
During the event, Mr. Healy received an award for raising $1 million for the college. He reminisces and says, “For me, that night was like a life-moment. I even joked that everyone was there besides my kindergarten teacher. They really summarized everything really nicely, and Jesús, who’s in the Fatherhood Academy, spoke before me and did such an amazing job that I really didn’t want to go up to take the award because I couldn’t come close to what he did. He stole the show, but he really solidified what everyone in the audience dedicated their money and attendance to, so it was a really amazing and heartfelt event.”
Still working at his Brooklyn office at the time, Mr. Healy knew he had completed his job of getting the company to their highest point and decided to retire in 2015 from the financial industry. Shortly after, President Mellow asked him to be the Chairman of the Board.
After his predecessor, Jane Schulman retired nearly four months ago, the opportunity to run the ACE program, small business program and the New York City incubator program came up. During a board meeting, the search for a new ACE VP came into question. “I thought, I’ve accomplished a significant amount of work over the years, and it was finally time to dedicate myself to something I’m really passionate about, and it made such a significant difference in my life, I thought I could bring an of element of business to the program and really compliment the already academic component and hopefully bring this to a new level,” Mr. Healy explains.
Bringing a new dynamic and a fresh outlook into the ACE Program, Mr. Healy describes the people of LaGuardia as “amazing and all knowledge-based.” He adds, “The level of experience and education they have and passion and real focus on service is amazing. I talked to so many people and have many more to talk to, and they made me know I made the right decision.”
As the Vice President of the ACE division, Mr. Healy sets out to bring the College to its highest point, just as he has done with previous companies.
His goals for the program include creating a strong position statement for the ACE program in the outside world through advertising, running the division like a small business, reaching out to people and groups who can supply LaGCC with internships and opportunities to partner with corporate programs. Mr. Healy declares he’d like to “accelerate the NYC Design Center and create that ability to focus on an incubator type competitive platform and have centers of excellence.” He continues, saying, “we may have some already but really look for the next up-and-coming areas where we might stand out and support the local economy and national economy for the people we serve and be at the front of the pack to have that leadership position yet again.”