Michael '78 & Janet Jesanis
A Stake in the Future
Adapted from the Fall/Winter 2008 E2E Newsletter
Mike and Janet Jesanis share the same philanthropic philosophy; the couple supports institutions and projects they feel connected to and people they believe in. “The degree of our philanthropic investment is directly related to our connections to an institution and its people,” Mike explains. “I have been a continuous supporter of higher education ever since I graduated, both in support of Clarkson and also as the board chair of a college in Massachusetts. Five years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting President Tony Collins when he spoke to alumni at reunion. In hearing Tony speak about the challenges facing higher education and where he wanted to lead Clarkson, my immediate reaction was to turn to Janet and tell her that this guy gets it. Right then and there I knew I wanted to be involved in Clarkson at a much deeper level.”
For Mike and Janet, a commitment to Clarkson, its mission and its community also means a stake in its future. A future they believe should build upon the University’s tradition of developing innovators and leaders who can apply technology and knowledge to address the challenges of today’s global world.
After receiving bachelor of science and master’s degrees in mathematics from Clarkson and an MBA from the Wharton School, Mike launched a highly successful professional career in the energy industry, eventually serving as the president and chief executive officer of National Grid USA, a subsidiary of one of the world’s leading energy delivery companies.
After three decades of influence and leadership in the energy industry, Mike understands that finding solutions to complex challenges requires leaders and innovators who can reach across specialized fields of knowledge.
“We face a lot of tough challenges today in the world and among the most pressing is how we will find enough energy to grow our economy yet at the same time protect our planet,” Mike says. “If we rely solely on the tools we know today, drilling for more oil and gas, making our power production a little cleaner, utilizing the wind and the sun to produce some of our energy, we will achieve neither our economic nor our environmental objectives. Energy needs to have the kind of innovation that the Internet has brought to communications and knowledge transfer and biotechnology has brought to medicine.”
One of the best ways for Clarkson to continue to increase its influence in the world, he believes, is to attract and retain top-level faculty. “If there is one thing I learned during my years in industry, it is that to achieve what you want you must start with great people. Young people will have the greatest opportunity to meet their potential if they are exposed to faculty who embrace innovation.”
To that end, Mike and Janet have pledged an outright gift over four years to create The Michael E. ’78 and Janet Jesanis Endowed Chair, which will be awarded to a faculty member selected by the University who has demonstrated innovation in research and/or teaching that stretches across academic fields. The total gift also counted in Mike’s 30th anniversary reunion fundraising in 2008.
“The interdisciplinary nature of its programs and its emphasis on problem solving and creative thinking is exactly what makes Clarkson such a fertile training ground for leaders,” says Mike. “Any successful enterprise requires a mix of disciplines. It is not sufficient to have great knowledge; you have to know how to put it to use. Clarkson has understood for years that to have technology serve humanity requires breaking down the barriers that can exist among science, engineering and business. Because of that understanding, Clarkson is well positioned to make a real difference and deliver benefits for society as a whole.”
Michael '78 & Janet Jesanis
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