Schepisi Recalls his Rigorous Stevens Days


John Schepisi ’65 remembers how in his days at Stevens, the deans would gather all the freshmen and tell them, “Look to your left, look to your right, only one of you will graduate.”

Stevens was tough in those days, just like now, except then it lacked modern programs to help students. Of the seven ’61-’62 freshmen from John’s high school, six flunked.

“Only one of us lasted, and that was me,” John said. “They were all scholars, and I was not – I was a well-rounded guy, but I was not a bookworm. I went back my sophomore year to see my teachers, who heard stories about who dropped out. My English teacher asked where I was working, because he thought I was one of the six. We had a good laugh when I said I was still at Stevens.”

John became more of a scholar by following a blue-collar ethic, one he learned working summers for his father’s roofing business. That kind of work encouraged him to find a career where he could use his mind. “Every year I came back to Stevens I studied hard, I worked harder, because there was no way I was going to be a roofer.”

As a student, John was a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, pledged Phi Sigma Kappa, and fenced and played lacrosse. He had fun, but he still focused. “When I started at Stevens I had just turned 17, and it was my first time away from my folks, so I was very immature. But I decided I better get my GPA up. After my first semester it was a 2.3, and by the middle of my sophomore year it was a 3.6.”

After graduating, John dabbled in the chemical industry, but he soon realized, with an affable and loquacious style suited for persuasion, that he was more interested in being a lawyer. He went to St. John’s and then worked for a small firm in New Jersey. “I was on the law review, and everyone on law review but me went with a Wall Street firm. I just did not want to commute into New York and be a number with a large firm.”

John worked hard, attracted clients and eventually founded his own firm, now called Schepisi & McLaughlin, one of the most prominent firms in New Jersey. With a focus on litigation, real estate development, land use issues and zoning approvals, John has advised several Fortune 500 clients and negotiated numerous multi-million dollar deals.

He is certain he’s a better lawyer because he first trained as an engineer at Stevens. “Stevens gave me a sense of logic, an analytical approach to things that most people never get in their lifetimes. I can analyze a problem better than 99% of the attorneys I deal with.”

Away from the office, John spends time with his wife Peggy, three children – attorney Holly, real estate developer Mark and restaurateur Rory – and three grandchildren. He and Peggy love fishing, host family dinners on Sundays, and travel a few times a year. “We go away, the whole family. It gets costly after a while as the family starts getting bigger and bigger, and you try to make dinner reservations for 20 people, but it’s worth it.”

He also devotes time to his alma mater. John is a member of the Lifetime Giving and Edwin A. Stevens societies, and he serves as a university trustee. In 2013, he received the Outstanding Contribution award at the inaugural Stevens Awards Gala.

As a trustee, he is bullish of the current state of Stevens and the university’s future. “It’s the best it’s ever been as long as I’ve been here. President Farvardin has reenergized Stevens, and everybody has joined together for the best interests of the school.”

And as a new generation of Stevens students look to their left and right, and see more of their classmates graduating, John hopes they work hard and find success just like he did. “Keep learning, and every day that goes by, remember your alma mater. Remember what gave you the start.”


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