From Foreign Student to Success, Alumnus Reflects on Stevens


Years later, Fred Paulson ’59 still remembers. He remembers a tumultuous childhood in war-torn Greece, he remembers landing in America, he remembers his classmates, he remembers his mentor and colleagues, and he remembers Stevens.

Fred – or Photios Tsochatzopoulos on his birthday – was born in Athens in 1939, shortly before World War II and the Greek Civil War from 1946 to 1949. His parents, Paul and Helen, insisted he work hard in school. “Those were exciting times in many ways, but nevertheless, I went to very good schools. We went through a rough but good curriculum, with excellent teachers.”

While in high school, Fred also attended the French academy in Athens and took English lessons at the local YMCA. Through the YMCA, he got an opportunity to come to America during his teens, “I had been selected for a unique program created by Summit High School here in New Jersey, and so I came to the United States for a year. They really took care of me – they had arranged for me to live with five American families, two months each.”

He enjoyed his time at Summit High, making several lifelong friends and even marveling at his first pep rally with football players and cheerleaders. After his exchange year, he moved back to Greece, but with a yearning to return to America and attend college. “I fell in love with the United States. I wanted to come back, and I started writing letters, trying to find a scholarship. My father didn't have any money to send me to the U.S. Finally, one of my schoolmates from Summit suggested Stevens. Stevens offered me a small scholarship, and so immediately I said yes and came to Stevens. I crossed the Atlantic in a ship’s clinic since I couldn’t afford a regular ticket.”

As a student, Fred was a brother in Sigma Nu and a member of the Inter-Fraternity Council, played soccer, and served as vice president of the Chess Club. Since his scholarship was only enough to start him at Stevens, he worked various jobs to pay his way during his four years.

After he graduated with an engineering degree, Fred was accepted into a graduate program. But by coincidence, he also responded to an ad on a campus bulletin board from Becton Dickinson (BD), a major medical technology company. He got the job after impressing Jack Howe, a BD executive, Stevens alumnus from 1943, and namesake of the campus Howe Center. “When he hired me, he told me right from the beginning that he wanted Stevens people. He helped me out enormously. He was my mentor and a friend.”

Fred, who earned a graduate degree from Stevens in 1962 and completed Harvard’s advanced management program, served as Howe’s right hand, eventually rising to become BD’s chief operating officer during his quarter-century with the company. He was also president of BD’s European division, with long stints in Ireland and France. Later, he served as an executive, advisor or board member with several other medical device companies. At home, Fred and his wife, Nona, a Summit native, raised three children, Elizabeth, Paul and Mary.

Now retired, Fred spends time with his family and is a member of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Wyckoff, New Jersey. He still keeps in touch with Jack Howe’s widow, Suzanne. He also still travels, though less now for business or pleasure and more to maintain the friendships he started back when he first came to America and during his time at BD. “Instead of just seeing places, it's really seeing old friends. And so I make it a point now to see them in France, in Greece, in Belgium, in Ireland. Old friends are always very precious to me.” 

As an alumnus, Fred became re-engaged with Stevens through Jack Howe. “He was always pushing me to get active with the school. He kept at it with me, and I started getting into it. Then, after a while, I was in semi-retirement, and I decided I owed a lot to Stevens.”

These days, he is also interested in supporting Stevens because of the administration of President Nariman Farvardin and the university’s strategic plan. “I’m excited about what they are doing. Stevens has not just changed, it has advanced in a lot of things. It offers tremendous opportunities to its students compared to any other place they could choose.” 

Among his seven-figure commitment to The Power of Stevens fundraising campaign, Fred’s generosity has had a major impact on the School of Business. Because of his contribution, in Fall 2017 Stevens was able to recruit Victor Luo, a former Federal Reserve economist, as the Fred Paulson ’59 Assistant Professor of Finance.

He also supports student success through scholarships. “It's a great satisfaction, a wonderful feeling. I've met some of these students, and I admire them. I admire their will, their tenacity, and their vision, and I think we should make all the effort to help them.”

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