Did you know that the CEO of Wawa went to Villanova? Or that NASA astronaut Andrew M. Allen is a Villanovan? Villanova has a network of over 123,000 alumni, many of whom have gone on to do incredible things. They have stories to tell, advice to share and amazing memories of their own Villanova experiences.
In this column, we will share their stories, both of their time here at Villanova and beyond. This week, we feature Larry Goanos, who graduated from Villanova in 1984. Larry was a sports editor for the Villanovan his senior year and has carried his interest in publishing through his career. He has written two books and is currently working on another one. Larry went on to Boston College Law School after graduation and has worked in commercial insurance at several companies. Currently, he is the Chief Executive Officer of Andros Risk Services.
The Villanovan (TV): How has Villanova helped shape your career?
Larry Goanos (LG): My Villanova education and the overall Villanova experience provided me with invaluable tools for succeeding in the business world. More specifically, it taught me, among other things, the importance of discipline in getting tasks done on time and a greater sense of the importance of teamwork in achieving a goal. In addition, I am happy to say that there’s a strong sense of camaraderie and support among Villanova alumni in the business world. Fellow Villanovans have helped my career, and I like to think that I’ve helped some others. Not all colleges have a strong alumni network like Villanova.
TV: I know that you were a Villanovan sports editor. Can you tell me more about that experience?
LG: Sure, glad you asked! Keep in mind, I graduated a L-O-N-G time ago and things were a lot different in those days. We didn’t have cell phones, laptops or the internet (gasp!). Our Villanovan moderator, June Lytel, was a great mentor. She really kept everyone in-line and on-time and taught us a lot about journalism. My very first assignment as a freshman was to cover the home football game against Richmond (all The Villanovan seniors were away on a retreat of some kind, and I was lucky enough to get chosen to cover the football game.) That year, 1984, was our last as a Division IA (now FBS) football team. There were only four Catholic colleges in Division IA in 1984: Villanova, Notre Dame, Holy Cross and Boston College. After the game, a heartbreakingly close loss, I interviewed a Villanova player named Howie…what was his last name, obscure guy, you probably never heard of him…oh yeah, Howie….Long. He was very upset post-game when I approached him with my stupid freshman reporter questions, but he composed himself and answered my dumb questions politely and professionally. You could just tell he was a great guy. I’m not sure whatever happened to him, he’s probably an accountant or something.
During the course of my Villanovan career, I was lucky enough to interview people (besides Villanova athletes and coaches) like Patrick Ewing, Michael Jordan, Dean Smith, John Thompson, Hakeem Olajuwon, Chris Mullin and many others. Working on The Villanovan was a great experience. And I’ll never forget that just before graduation, Fr. Stack sent me a letter thanking me for my service on the newspaper. I still have that letter. It made it big impression on me and I treasure it. Uh oh, I think I just put a burden on Fr. Stack (who I am still in touch with, great guy) to send you one of those letters now!
TV: What is your favorite Villanova memory?
LG: Hmm, this is a good question. Two things stand out. One has to be meeting my future wife, although she didn’t become my wife until 27 years later (long story, I’m actually writing a book about it and Villanova is, of course, prominently featured). And the second is two moments which encapsulated my Villanova experience. The first occurred sometime during my first week on campus. I was living in Stanford Hall and felt quite lonely. I only knew one person at Villanova, a girl in my high school class at Red Bank Catholic, and I was homesick big time. I missed being near the beach (I grew up at the Jersey Shore) and I felt like I had no friends at Villanova. I remember crying in the shower, thinking about what a mistake I had made by going to Villanova. Of course, eventually I assimilated, made friends and grew to love the place as much as I could have possibly loved a college. The second memory serves as a bookend to that one. On the morning of graduation four years later, I cried in the shower once again, but this time because I knew one of the best periods of my life was over, and I was going to miss Villanova and all my friends. So, you can imagine how many great memories were made in between those two showers, it was just an awesome four years.
TV: What is the best connection you made during your time at Villanova?
LG: Besides my aforementioned wife, I can’t really narrow it down. I’m still in fairly close contact with about eight or ten of my Villanova friends on a regular basis. In fact, I just received a text from one a minute ago. I think our common bond is pretty strong, starting with our Villanova days and continuing from there. The alumni network, as I mentioned previously, is just incredible. It’s not as large as those of many state universities, but it is very, very strong. Not even Terry Delany could ruin it! Just kidding, he’s a great Alumni President and a friend. Villanovans are generally altruistic people who have great concern for others. Service is a significant component of the Villanova experience and it carries over into support for fellow alums.
TV: What’s the most surprising thing you learned after you graduated?
LG: Two things come to mind readily. First, don’t get hung up on your major. They say the average person today will have something like six or eight different careers before they retire. Just because you may have had to pigeon hole yourself into a certain discipline/major as a 17-year old, don’t expect that’s what you’ll be doing at 35 or 45 or 55. The key is learning how to learn since most of what you’ll need to be successful you’ll learn after college, not in college. You need to be open to learning new things and adopting to change. Those are important college lessons and skills.
The second thing is to pursue your goals zealously. Don’t let anyone tell you no, even if it has never been done, you can be the first. I wrote two books about insurance (try not to fall asleep, it gets more interesting…) and after each was published I sent a copy to Warren Buffett to try to get a favorable review from him. I didn’t know Mr. Buffett but, shockingly, he read and liked both books and sent me a personal note saying so. He also let me use his laudatory comments in the book advertising (almost all the proceeds from both books go to charity, so that may have helped gain his support). I just took a shot with Mr. Buffett, hoping for his support. That lesson is transferable to almost any endeavor; shoot for the stars and see what happens. There’s an old Zen saying, “Leap and the net shall appear.” P.S. That book I’m writing about my relationship with my wife, I’m not going to send it to Warren Buffett, but I do hope that Father Stack reads it!
TV: What’s the best advice you could give to a Villanova student?
LG: Besides the above, I’d say be a life-long learner and be open to both receiving help from others and helping others if you can. More specifically, whatever field you enter, I would strongly advise that you seek out two or three (or even more) mentors who can help guide your career. Tell these people that you respect and admire them and ask if they’d be open to your seeking guidance from them. I’d say 90% of people will be flattered and will agree to help you. I’ve seen it in my career and the career of others – having a mentor can make a huge difference in your career path.
TV: Do you have a life motto?
LG: Another good question, they’ve obviously raised the caliber of talent on The Villanovan since I was there! My life motto has probably changed a number of times as I’ve gotten older (not sure that I’ve matured, but I’ve certainly gotten older!)
First, make sure that you work with people who you like and enjoy being around. You spend a lot of time with your work colleagues and life is too short to hate the people around you, especially your boss, no matter what you’re getting paid. It will make your life miserable. And second, do work that you enjoy and believe in and do it to the best of your ability. Not everybody can save the world, or save the whales, but almost every job has some redeeming qualities. I work in commercial insurance. Our products help businesses get back on their feet when they have a loss of some type, so it provides stability for businesses and keeps them afloat and employing people. And the insurance industry itself also provides a livelihood for a lot of people and their families. So, there are redeeming qualities in all of that. And whatever you do in life, try to have some fun while you’re at it. It will be contagious, and you’ll brighten everyone’s day. Life is relatively short, enjoy it.