Alumni Spotlight: Jon LaBerge ’76

Oh how the world has changed in the 35 years since I graduated from Webb.  With all of the stresses and complications of life in the 21st century, it sometimes makes me nostalgic for the era of Vietnam and Nixon and Watergate.  On second thought, maybe not.  But I will say that on my infrequent visits to the campus over the years since graduation, there has been a feeling of constancy and familiarity with a place that has had a remarkable influence on my life and career, and that sentiment feels a lot like nostalgia to me.

What does anyone know about life when he or she is a high school senior?  I knew I had the aptitude for engineering and an interest in solving complex problems.  Coming from a small town in northeastern Pennsylvania, I had no connection to the marine industry, but was intrigued by the quality and dedication of the faculty, administration and student body at Webb.  While at Webb, I was perhaps best known as a member of the basketball team who helped Webb end one of its decade-plus losing streaks.  At one point in the ’74 season we actually had a winning record until we hit finals week (that’s final exams, not the Final Four) and we lost our last four games!  I also served as Athletic Committee chair sophomore and junior years, and on the Honor Council my senior year.

After graduation I relocated to Washington, DC along with a number of my friends from the classes of ’75 and ’77.  While there I worked for Gibbs & Cox, AdTech, and Gianotti & Associates, twice working with my great friend, John Hopkinson who, although he was not a Webb alum, was very devoted to the school, hired several alums over the years and established the scholarship at Webb that bears his name.

But I became frustrated working on large government projects and decided to go back to school to get an MBA.  In 1982, with the help of what must have been positive references from Prof. Ward and Adm. Payne, I was accepted at Harvard Business School and received the W. N. Landers Scholarship from SNAME.

After Harvard, I worked in management consulting, manufacturing, and eventually found my way into the financial industry.  For the past 18 years I have run various aspects of investment operations, compliance, legal, HR and IT for the likes of Bankers Trust, Mutual of America, Bear Stearns and Zurich Scudder.  At the end of 2010, I retired as Chief Operating Officer of PartnerRe Capital Markets, a $20 billion captive investment management operation, where I had worked since its founding in 2002.  I continue to consult nearly full-time within the financial industry.  Along the way I got married to my wife of 29 years, Deborah; we have a 16-year-old son, Peter, and live in Stamford Connecticut, where we have been for the past 24 years.

Although investment management might seem to be far-afield from naval architecture, I continue to use the skills I learned at Webb to analyze, develop and implement pragmatic and effective solutions to technically challenging problems nearly every day.  And as those of you who attended the recent lecture at Webb by billionaire James Simons should realize, these skills are applicable, not just to naval architecture, but to a wide variety of issues and industries.

As life often does, things have come full circle for me.  Last year at a class agents’ meeting at Webb, Dave St. Amand (’77) asked me to join him on the SNAME Investment Committee.  Through that affiliation, I have reconnected with several other Webb alums that are currently on Webb’s Board, and I have recently been elected to join them as a member of the Board of Trustees later this year.

We all owe a real debt of gratitude to Webb, both the school and the man.  How many of us will leave a legacy that will educate well over a thousand talented young men and women and continue to do so well over a century after our deaths?  I take great pride in the fact that by serving on the Board and making contributions to Webb in the form of the Annual Fund and Planned Giving, I am helping to perpetuate his legacy.  Please join me in generously giving back; specifically at this point in its history, Webb can really use your help and support.