by Eric Coker
Paul Turovsky '73 admitted that he had two reactions when he was told that he would receive an honorary degree and speak at the spring Commencement ceremony.
The first reaction: He was "honored and humbled."
"I never dreamed when I graduated so long ago that I would ever have the opportunity to return to my alma mater to deliver a Commencement address," the real estate investment manager who earned a Ph.D. in Latin American history from UCLA told graduates at the Harpur College afternoon ceremony at the Events Center on May 20.
The second reaction: nervousness. Turovsky said not only was he nervous about not being funny or witty enough, but he was also nervous about "not being able to say something meaningful enough."
But Turovsky decided to focus on something he could talk passionately about and something the graduates could relate to: the importance of a liberal arts education.
Turovsky manages more than $700 million in assets for institutional investors for True North Management Group. He previously served as managing director of Deutsche Bank Securities and fund manager for DB Real Estate's Mezzanine Investment Funds. At Binghamton University, Turovsky is chair of the Bold.Brilliant.Binghamton fundraising campaign; chair of the Binghamton University Foundation Board of Directors; vice president of the BUF Housing Corporation; and chair of the Harpur College Advocacy Council.
But Turovsky did not begin his time at Binghamton studying business. He studied history and learned from professors such as Sidney Harcave, Helen Rivlin, Charles Forcey and Melvin Dubofsky.
"The good news was that it was a choice to pursue a real passion that I had developed here at Binghamton," he said. "... The bad news probably was that I did it without knowledge of the many alternatives that were possible for someone like me."
"The point is that while there is nothing wrong with the student of the liberal arts going on to become a doctor or lawyer or teacher or even getting a business degree to become an accountant," he added. "What is important is that you recognize that there are many other possibilities and choices filled with enormous opportunities and the next step for you is to find out what some of them are."
After completing his degree, Turovsky said he came to the realization that teaching and research at a university level was not the only career he might be interested in.
"The challenge then was to turn the skills that I had developed in my academic training at Binghamton and UCLA to a new passion in a new career," he said. "To me – as something of an optimist – this wasn't a problem or a defeat. It was an opportunity."
Turovsky told the students that while a liberal arts degree could make their first job search more difficult than if they had a professional degree, he was confident they would succeed. His advice included volunteer and internship experience; thinking about links between liberal arts classes and potential career opportunities; and seeking others with liberal arts degrees and asking them about their jobs.
Once a job is in place, the educational background will prove even more beneficial, Turovksy said.
"The training you had in the liberal arts – the way you have learned to do research, analyze material, to work together in teams, come to conclusions and make judgments, make presentations and sell ideas – will stay with you for your entire life and help make you a more valuable asset in your profession and community," he said.
While much of Turovsky's address provided graduates with advice for the future, he also urged them to "rejoice in the day."
"Relish in the fact that you are a student of the liberal arts who understands change, maintains historical perspective and looks at the world with a healthy sense of skepticism – balanced, of course, with some optimism," he said. "And as a student of the liberal arts you have learned that literature, history, the sciences and art help us to understand what life means – what is enduring and what is peripheral – and how to be a good citizen."
Turovsky concluded his address by imploring graduates to remain connected to Binghamton University. His continuing connection and generosity has led to gifts that support the Jean-Pierre Mileur Faculty Development Fund for Harpur College and the Lois B. DeFleur Faculty Prize for Academic Achievement. He also has received the 2010 Glenn G. Bartle Distinguished Alumnus Award and the 1999 Harpur College Alumni Award.
"It took me more than 20 years after graduating before I returned to this school and started to re-establish my relationship as an alumnus," he said. "I regret that it took me so long to do this. So I would hope that you won't follow that path but instead continue to stay connected and do everything you can in the years ahead to help others gain access to the excellent educational opportunities that this fine University has provided to you."
Last Updated: 6/3/15