Perspectives from the Boardroom
Perspectives from the Boardroom
Tom Corcoran ’67 has profound thoughts on leadership, philanthropy and the future of Stevens.
Fifty years after he graduated from Stevens, Tom Corcoran is proud of the life he’s built as a husband and father, successful executive, engaged citizen, and supporter of his alma mater.
He came to Stevens after getting some sound advice. “I had a guidance counselor tell me Stevens might be a good school for me to apply to,” Tom said. “I was good at math, and I knew some people who were engineers, so I thought being an engineer might be a good thing.”
Tom remembers his Castle Point days as a brother in Beta Theta Pi and as business manager for The Link yearbook, and he especially values the time he spent in Stevens classrooms. “It gave me confidence I could stand up to the rigors of an academic environment, confidence I had learned something of value, confidence I was able to articulate a position, and confidence I could compete with others my age.”
After graduating with an engineering degree, Tom began his career at General Electric, rising to executive positions in the company’s aerospace division. Later, he served as an executive with Lockheed Martin’s electronics, missiles, and space operations. He has also served as CEO of Allegheny Teledyne and Gemini Air Cargo (a Carlyle Group company). Currently, he serves as a director with L3 Technologies and Aerojet Rocketdyne. He has also been an advisor with the Carlyle Group.
“I was able to come out of Stevens and spend 26 years with GE and then go on to success in other places. I don’t think I could have done that if I hadn’t experienced the Stevens education.”
Throughout his career, Tom has honed his ideas about leadership. “Leadership is about setting a vision and selecting people who support the vision, who can help you develop and continue to refine it. Leadership is also about being willing to change – knowing when to change, how to change, what to change. You could argue the only constant in the world for any of us is change, and so leadership is in many ways dealing with that.”
Tom, who received the Steven Honor Award in 1996 and an honorary degree in 2003, contributes his experience and perspective as a university trustee. “The state of Stevens now is outstanding. We’ve come a long way in terms of being financially stable. The quality of our students continues to get better and better.”
He is pleased to see Stevens place highly in U.S. News & World Report’s national collegiate rankings. “People and institutions are recognizing Stevens is a real jewel and that students who come here are prepared for life after school. I’ve talked to people from MIT, Carnegie Mellon, Stanford, Cal Tech, you name it, and the quality of our education compares to any other technical school in America.”
Among philanthropic support, Tom and his wife, Claudia, have established Corcoran Hall inside the Gateway Academic Center, and the Corcoran Endowed Chair in Systems Management, which Stevens will fill in the future.
Connected to his philanthropic interests, Tom has refined views on faculty excellence. “The first part is being an excellent teacher, where students believe they’re getting a first-class education. Professors should also encourage students to strive for excellence themselves. Secondly, faculty should be leaders in research so that they are pioneering technology or some other aspect of their profession. The third pillar would be faculty who understand the school’s strategic plan and contribute to its development and implementation.”
Tom lives in Florida and Maryland, and in addition to his business and community interests he spends time playing golf, reading, and meeting with friends. He also serves as a director of the American Ireland Fund. He and Claudia have been married for more than 50 years and have two children.
"Looking back, I’m proud of a lot of things,” Tom said. “I’m proud I had a family and gave them my time. I’m proud I behaved ethically and always focused on doing the right thing, as opposed to the easy thing. I’m proud I left the businesses I led better off than when I started, and of the people I helped develop who were able to take leadership roles. And I’m proud I engaged with everyone, from the sweeper to the board, and treated people with respect.”