Tom Blum Continues Multigenerational Support for Stevens


Tom Blum

Since his father served as commodore of the Stevens Yacht Club, it is no surprise that Tom Blum’s earliest memories of Castle Point have to do with ships.

Tom is the son and grandson of Stevens alumni. His father, Donald Blum ’45, graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering, as did his grandfather Joseph Blum, a 1908 graduate who founded an engineering consulting firm that continues to bear his name. After World War II, Donald and his older brother Roger joined their father’s firm and took over as managing partners in 1961. The baton passed in 1990 to Tom’s identical twin brother Jim. The firm’s focus is building maintenance, facade and structural repairs and mechanical system upgrades for commercial and multifamily buildings in New York City.

Tom’s first memory of Stevens is visiting the floating dormitory, a 473-foot decommissioned vessel that was home to 175 students between January 1968 and May 1975. “How cool is this,” thought Tom, age 11, touring the boat, which in its new life was affectionately known as the S.S. Stevens.

When tall ships from all over the world paraded up the Hudson on July 4, 1976, to celebrate the U.S. Bicentennial, Tom was there. He had a bird’s eye view of the harbor and the spectacular fireworks that evening from the Stevens campus because his father had moored the family’s sailboat close by. “I stayed in a dorm,” said Tom, “thus avoiding an uncomfortable night of tossing and bobbing in the unceasing waves and wakes on the Hudson.” Tom was joined for the event by his friend Heli, a high school exchange student from Finland, who eight years later became his wife.

That fall, Tom went off to Princeton, where he majored in engineering, and then to Harvard Business School where he received an MBA. He has been an investment banker for 35 years, at Salomon Brothers, Bear Stearns and G.C. Andersen Partners. He focuses on clean tech, alternative energy, healthcare and early-stage companies.

For the past 10 years, Tom has been the treasurer for the Heart & Soul Charitable Fund, which supports community-based programs that serve New York's marginalized populations through the investment of time, money and compassion.

Tom is a long-time member of the New York Angels, an investment group of entrepreneurs, CEOs, venture capitalists and business leaders. He is also active with Clean Energy Venture Group and the Harvard Business School Alumni Angels of NY. This year he is serving part-time as an innovation advisor to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

Tom is fulfilling his father’s visions for energy efficiency and sustainability. “After commercial LEDs became available in the 1990s, my father wrote the local government recommending that streets be lit with them,” said Tom. “He was a bit ahead of his time, but his vision is now becoming a reality.”

Before his death at age 87 in 2011, Donald expressed a desire to support scholarships at Stevens, and Tom helped the family carry out these wishes. The most recent recipient of the Donald J. Blum 1945 Term Scholarship is Nicolette Malave, a chemical biology major who graduated in 2019.

“Buildings don’t write you a letter, but students do,” said Tom, who enjoys having a connection to specific recipients of the scholarship that honors his father. He also has made significant contributions of his own to Stevens, which he believes is achieving great success under the leadership of President Nariman Farvardin.

Tom supported the SURE House design project that won the 2015 U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon. Students from diverse majors designed and built the sustainable, highly-resilient, net-zero, two-bedroom residence. The beautifully designed beach house, now on display at the Liberty Science Center, is armored against extreme weather, runs on clean solar power and uses 90 percent less energy than conventional housing.

Tom participates regularly as an “entrepreneur in residence” with the Stevens Venture Center, where he advises start-ups from the Stevens community, including several founded by undergraduates. He says running a business in the real world involves many skills, some of which can be taught at school, and that inventing a product is not the same as running a company. He also emphasizes that understanding financial statements is key. “You must know accounting systems for many reasons, especially to make sure people get paid.” Tom advises students (and his children) to take at least one course in accounting, which is the language of finance and essential to understanding how companies work.

Tom believes that, “there isn’t much that’s more important than education. I like the fact that my family’s financial support goes a long way at Stevens,” he said. “We have seen a great return on investment.” 


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