By Jim Eaton
Like many students from his era, Vince Puritano ’59, a Korean War veteran, used the GI Bill to help pay his college tuition. He spent his days attending class at Siena and his evenings working at the steel mill in Watervliet.
“I was on my own and learning how to make it,” Puritano recalled.
During his junior year his funds were running low and he told his advisor, Joseph Buff, Ph.D., head of the business school, that he was going to work full time and return to college after a year or so.
Buff responded by creating a job for him on campus where he assisted his advisor registering students for classes. “I’ll forever be grateful for his mentorship and the fact that he looked out for my best interests at that time,” Puritano said. “That job allowed me to finish my degree at Siena.”
His first stop after Siena began after he saw a notice on a bulletin board for a scholarship to a graduate program in business. He won the scholarship and earned his M.B.A. from New York University. At NYU he saw another announcement about a civil service exam that led him to a job at the U.S. State Department.
“I always read the bulletin board announcements because you never knew what kind of opportunities were out there,” he said.
Over the next 40 years he never went looking for another job. Instead, the jobs came looking for him. He held numerous high-ranking positions at the State Department, at the White House’s Office of Management and Budget, in the CIA and in the Department of Defense. In 1984 he entered the private sector where he held vice presidential titles at Sears World Trade, the Rand Corporation and Northern Telecom. He also served as executive assistant to Secretary of State Colin Powell from 2000 – 03.
In 1984 Siena honored Puritano with the Joseph A. Buff award given to alumni with outstanding accomplishments or achievements in their careers. “It was a really nice honor and one I’m proud of since Dr. Buff played such a key role in helping me get my career started,” he said.
Puritano retired four times, yet each time he came back to work by accepting an offer he couldn’t refuse. Over the last 27 years he has supported Siena’s 21st Century Leaders program, an honor society for business majors that was originally formed by Douglas Lonnstrom ’66 when he served as dean of the school of business. Students are selected based on a combination of academic achievement and outstanding leadership potential. The club participates in four or five service events a year, often benefiting organizations like the Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless, John Howe Public Library in Albany and St. Francis Inn in Philadelphia, Pa.
“Vince’s generous annual financial contributions have allowed us to offer this program,” Cheryl Buff ’82, Ph.D., faculty advisor for the club and grand daughter-in-law of the late Joseph Buff, said. Puritano has routinely traveled from his home in Virginia to attend the annual event that salutes students who have been newly inducted into the organization.
“The message I have enjoyed sharing with students is that if you do your job to the best of your ability, promotions will come and employers will seek you out,” Puritano said. More importantly though, he has enjoyed paying back a debt of gratitude to the place that did so much for him.
In April, Puritano plans to visit campus once again. He looks forward to meeting this year’s high achieving students and to do whatever he can to assist them along their career path and life’s journey.