Tommy Fusco graduated from the UA with degrees in economics and finance in 1983. He is now managing director, equity coverage sales, with Credit Suisse in New York.
I grew up in New Jersey—I still live in the town where I grew up—and after graduating from high school in ’77, I went to college in upstate New York. My dad had high aspirations for me, but I didn’t do well there, I was pretty immature. My older brother Bill was at the UA, so I went to check it out. It was great. I’m one of seven, and four Fusco boys ended up going to Arizona.
As someone who hadn’t done well in school, I was able to take part in the continuing education program at the UA. If you did well, you were able to transfer in. Thanks to the continuing education program, I was given an entrée into the university. It was my second chance.
A friend of mine was studying finance and wanted to work on Wall Street. I took some classes and I enjoyed it. My second year, I took a class on capital markets. My professor predicted that there was a major shift underway from retail-dominated markets to institutional-dominated equity markets—institutional investing was only 10-15% of equity volumes at that time, and he predicted that the percentage was going to flip. It really resonated with me. After graduation, I got a job on an institutional desk and I’m still in institutional equity trading. He was spot on.
My basic message is that I was someone who was struggling, the UA was a tremendous help, and I’ll never forget that. You know, I thought that because the UA is a state institution, it didn’t need my support in the way that private schools need their alumni to help out. But over the last ten years or so, there’s been a growing need for financial support. I feel indebted to the UA and want to give back; I’m willing to help in whatever ways make sense. I asked Dean Jessup where the need was, and he asked me to support the Eller Professional Development Center.
The educational process is vital, but one reason students are making that investment is because they want preparation for the real world. They want to find a job. It’s important to develop an understanding of what you’re interested in and learn how to translate that from college to the real world, and the Professional Development Center is a mechanism for future Wildcats to do that.
Back in the fall, we had 12 Eller students come out to visit. They spent the morning learning how our equity trading department prepares on a daily basis. They were eager and interested and excited to see a world you generally only read about or see in movies. The students were great, and there were a few of them who had 4.0s. A lot of people want to work on Wall Street – of the 1,000 students we see in a year, maybe 10 percent have that GPA. It’s really competitive. The thing that ends up setting people apart is the passion and genuine affinity they have for the field. That’s not something you can fake.
I’ll always look back fondly on my time in the desert. Where I am today in my life is a byproduct of my experiences, and I wouldn’t be here without the UA. I’m proud to be a Wildcat and to help other Wildcats too.