Mentorship Comes Naturally to George Wilkinson ’92CBA
George Wilkinson ’92CBA knows that the choices we make when we’re young frequently have a lasting impact on the rest of our lives. He is quick to acknowledge that his life today would be very different had he not decided to choose St. John’s University for his college education.
“When it came time for me to choose a college, I had a lot of things going on in my life,” he recalled, “so I made the decision to stay home rather than go away to school. I was a first generation college kid, and I felt that, of the options available to me, St. John’s was the best place for me. I’ve never regretted that choice, because it really opened the door for me to become the person I am today.”
As a student, Wilkinson took advantage of all that the University had to offer, and during his Senior year began interviewing with the companies who were doing on-campus recruiting. A good student with an outgoing personality and a B.S. in Accounting, he was quickly hired by Grant Thornton as a Staff Accountant in the firm’s Tax Department.
Demonstrating the work ethic that he developed at St. John’s, he decided to take his career to the next level by attending law school at night while working full-time at Grant Thornton. It was another good choice for the hard-working young man with an eye to the future.
“I went to Brooklyn Law School at night,” he said, “and when I graduated I ended up at a law firm and worked on financial matters, such as general banking work, aircraft finance work and project finance work, which really was about representing lenders or developers of power plant projects. Once again, I was able to put my Accounting degree from St. John’s to good use, because I was able to develop a specialty in legal finance work.”
St. John’s taught me the importance of doing things for others, and I’ve always taken that advice to heart."
In 2004 Wilkinson joined Morgan Stanley, a leading global financial services firm providing a wide range of investment banking, securities, investment management and wealth management services. He currently serves as Executive Director, describing his position as “…kind of a lawyer working on the business side. The lawyers look at me as a business guy and the business guys that I work with look at me as a lawyer. It’s really the best of both worlds for me.”
Although he graduated more than two decades ago, this loyal alumnus has remained connected to the University that helped him take the first steps on the road to success. He remembers what it was like when he was a St. John’s student with an eye to the future, and willingly shares his experience and expertise with those who are today where he once was.
Recognizing the importance of giving back, Wilkinson recently served as a panelist in the Alumni Insider’s View…Day on Wall Street, an innovative program that brings current students together with successful alumni who work in major financial firms, offering them a behind-the-scenes look at the financial services industry. He was genuinely impressed by the young men and women who were participating in the program.
“The students that I met were a diverse group of typical St. John’s students,” he noted. “Many of them were like me, coming from a working class background. I could tell that they were willing to work hard and better themselves both personally and professionally. St. John’s students know that they need to work hard to be successful, and they’re willing to go ahead and do it. The ones that I met had a tremendous enthusiasm and wanted to learn as much as they could about what really happens in the business world.”
As someone who has never forgotten his roots, Wilkinson enjoys reaching out to young people as they try to find their way in the world. He participates in mentoring programs for junior employees at Morgan Stanley and is actively involved in a number of Big Brothers/Big Sisters initiatives. He admits that being able to share his time and talents with young people gives him a sense of doing his part to keep the University’s Vincentian mission alive in the world.
“St. John’s taught me the importance of doing things for others,” he said, “and I’ve always taken that advice to heart. I think that the best way to give back is to remember those times when you were the one just starting out and asking the questions. I believe that the most important thing from a give back perspective is to be available for young people and to help them to make their way. Being a part of Day on Wall Street was really fun, and it was a great way for me to show my appreciation for what St. John’s did for me. My connection to the University is stronger today than ever, and I definitely see that continuing in the future.”