Executive Vice President, Russo Partners, New York
When did you graduate Stony Brook?
I graduated from Stony Brook University with my BA in English in 1977.
What made you want to come to Stony Brook?
I had heard positive things about the university’s faculty, and it was absolutely true.
How would you describe your time at Stony Brook?
I arrived at Stony Brook University as a young man hailing from a factory-town in central Indiana. At Stony Brook, I was able to live out a dream for an English major, reading and writing, as well as engaging in debates and discussions about literature.
Can you describe your experiences with your most influential professors?
Thomas Kranidas taught my Milton class, and he really took me under his wing. I can still remember vividly spending time in his office, reading together and discussing different literary works. Then there was my Bible as Literature professor, Thoams Altzier. I’ll never forget how on the first day of class he held up a leather-bound copy of the King James Bible and dropped it onto the floor.
How did these experiences shape your education?
The guidance and support these professors gave me allowed me to bolster and challenge my own ideas of literature and theology. The department as a whole was an incredibly supportive community.
How did you decide what you wanted to do post-undergrad?
I actually visited the Melville Library’s career center on campus, and I realized that a lot of my interests were pointing towards corporate communications. I first went to complete my Masters of Theological Studies at the Harvard Divinity School, and then I worked for a while as a junior copywriter, which was a great joy.
And did the career you have today start soon after?
Yes, in 1988 I co-founded Noonan/Russo Communications Inc., a public relations firm for biotechnology. It became a go-to agency for biotech startup companies, and I’ve been there ever since.
What would you have to say to those who criticize the usefulness of an English major?
Majoring in English and graduating with that major takes a level of determination and courage that is not required with plenty of other majors. There are vast possibilities of career opportunities and paths to pursue after graduation.
What advice would you give to English undergrads at Stony Brook?
The skill set you gain from an English education is invaluable. And, for what it’s worth, myself and a great deal of other employers, would prefer to hire English majors.