Peter Veruki didn’t attend Owen or any other school at Vanderbilt. He doesn’t teach or conduct research at the university either. But ask many alumni which person had a big impact on their lives while at Owen, and odds are Veruki’s name is near the top of the list.
Veruki came to Owen in 1988 at the behest of former Dean Marty Geisel. The two met when Veruki was working on Wall Street, recruiting and training MBAs. Geisel, then at the University of Rochester, was looking for Wall Street jobs for his MBA candidates.
“I was impressed with his style, and when he went to work at Owen he called and asked me to come down,” Veruki says. “He told me that Owen was too good to be just the best school in the Southeast. He wanted someone to help market the school on Wall Street and in California and Chicago.”
Initially Veruki wasn’t interested in leaving New York for Nashville, but eventually Geisel won him over. Veruki came on board to lead Owen’s career center, but running that office was only part of his job. He also was charged with working his Wall Street connections and strengthening relationships with alumni—relationships that could eventually mean internships and jobs for Owen students.
“I’d get out on the road and take students with me,” Veruki says. “Traditionally career centers just sit back and wait for the companies to come to them. We changed all that—we took our students, or at least their resumes, to the companies.”
“Peter was an inspiration to me and he always gave me good advice, even if it wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I owe a lot of my career to the start that he gave me, and I will always remember that.”
During this time Owen’s reputation went from being a regional school to a national one. The rankings improved, and applications from other parts of the country increased. Students received one-on-one coaching and were encouraged to set their sights high. Veruki realized that Owen had turned the corner in 1990, despite a bleak job market. Several students landed noteworthy positions, including Eric Noll, MBA’90, who is now Executive Vice President of NASDAQ OMX Group’s Transaction Services.
“When I left Owen, I had an offer from the Chicago Board Options Exchange,” Noll says. “Before I started at Owen, I didn’t realize that such jobs existed. But Peter and Hans Stoll really opened my eyes. They educated us on what kinds of jobs were out there and how to get them.”
Unfortunately Geisel died in 1999, just as the school was starting to make its mark. Veruki left soon thereafter to take a position at Rice University. Several years later, just as he was ready to retire, Veruki got another call from Owen. Jim Bradford, who was Acting Dean at the time, wanted Veruki back.
“Jim told me that I didn’t necessarily need to return to Nashville. He said, ‘I need you in Seattle and New York, getting alumni reconnected,’” says Veruki, who currently lives in Houston. “He and I both realized that every alum out there is a potential employer, and they’re the ones hiring MBAs.”
Over the course of his career at Owen, Veruki has made a real difference to the school’s alumni. Owen graduates can be found in boardrooms around the world, and many credit Veruki for their success. In fact, a group of them, led by Eric Noll and his wife, Georgiana, established a scholarship in Veruki’s honor—a rare recognition for a staff member. The scholarship was announced at the 2012 Owen Circle dinner.
“I was the last to know. Even when I was seated at the dinner with five of my favorite alumni, I still didn’t suspect anything,” says Veruki, who now serves as the school’s Director of Corporate Relations. “But then they started calling them up to the podium, and I finally realized what was going on. I was so humbled.”
For now, the scholarship is designated as the Wall Street Scholarship. When Veruki retires, it will be given his name.
Paul Jacobson, MBA’97, Chief Financial Officer at Delta Airlines, was one of the first to contribute to the scholarship fund. “When I got the call about the scholarship, I just felt that it was the right time to make a sizeable gift,” he says. “Peter was an inspiration to me and he always gave me good advice, even if it wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I owe a lot of my career to the start that he gave me, and I will always remember that.”
Veruki hopes that the type of student to receive the scholarship will be someone “who could go to Wharton or Harvard to study finance,” he says, “but instead chooses Owen because our finance faculty is second to none. We’re looking for a person who appreciates the culture we have here—the camaraderie and teamwork.”
That Owen culture is something appreciated by today’s employers. “What we’ve found at Delta is that Owen alumni really fit our group dynamic,” Jacobson says. “There’s a level of humility that really helps them blend in with our culture. We’ve had a lot of success hiring Vanderbilt MBAs.”
Noll further explains the reasoning behind honoring Veruki. “His longevity, his concern for students and their future and their careers, have been extremely influential,” he says. “There’s always lots of recognition for strong faculty—like endowed chairs—but it’s not always so easy to recognize staff members. That’s why I’m so happy to be a part of this scholarship.”
If you would like more information about the Wall Street Scholarship, please contact the Owen Development and Alumni Relations office at (615) 322-0815.