James (’67CBA, ’95HON) and Tommye Schiro Are Transforming their World
After James J. Schiro ’67CBA, ’95HON took the helm as Chief Executive Officer at Zurich Financial Services, Barron’s Magazine dubbed him the “Transformer” for leading the company from what had been an annual loss of $3.4 billion to what is today a profit of $6.6 billion. But that is only part of the story, for Schiro and his wife Tommye are also helping to transform lives.
The couple is committed to a variety of causes both at home and abroad. And while their list of philanthropic endeavors is long, they remain devoted to St. John’s. Jim Schiro says he and his wife are only reciprocating the many blessings they have received. “[St. John’s] allowed me to exceed my dreams,” he said during a recent interview.
The son of a millinery worker, Jim received scholarship funding for college from his father’s council of the Knights of Columbus. He also worked at First National City Bank of New York (now Citibank) which helped pay for his education. After graduation, he began a successful career at Price Waterhouse eventually becoming Chairman and Chief Executive Officer and later led the merger with Coopers & Lybrand to form PricewaterhouseCoopers. In 2002, he joined Zurich Financial Services as Chief Operating Officer- Finance and was soon appointed Chief Executive Officer.
Tommye and Jim met when Jim was a student at the Schermerhorn Street campus and Tommye was in high school—but did not begin dating until she was a student at Brooklyn College. They married in 1968 and have since faced life’s challenges side-by-side.
Tommye, Jim says, is “a great partner. The most important thing you can say in life is ‘I couldn’t have done it without you,’” he says. “I am so fortunate to be able to say that.” The travel between the U.S. and Switzerland has been a sacrifice but they have managed to make an adventure of it. “We’ve had great times together and the ability to laugh and have a sense of humor got us through,” he says.
Tommye and Jim understand the value of travel. They embrace the University’s Discover The World program where students learn, live and perform service abroad. “I think it is advantageous to live for part of your life, be it a semester or a summer, abroad and expose yourself to another culture,” Tommye says. “I think that young people have to have a good sense of who they are and then be open to learn from others.“
As one of the titans of industry, Jim understands the importance of globalization and being a citizen of the world. His announcement last January of a scholarship program to fund the enrollment of Chinese students in the Master of Science degree program in Management of Risk at St. John’s The Peter J. Tobin College of Business was met with excitement and accolades.
Jim finds fulfillment in recruiting and mentoring the younger generation. “Young people need a plan,” he remarks. “They have to be realistic and manage their expectations.”
The Schiros frequently spend time in New Orleans where they are supporters of St. Michael’s Special School, designed for students with major learning difficulties.
For all their professional success and accomplishments, the couple is just as happy cooking together at home and spending quality time with their family, a family that includes St. John’s. Jim has served on the Rome Board of Advisors, as Co-Chair of the University’s 125th Anniversary Celebration and as Chair of the inaugural President’s Dinner. He has also served on the University’s Board of Trustees for several terms. Jim says he views remaining close to alma mater as a natural response to all that St. John’s has done for him. “I remember when I was a student and the University helped you and cared for you not just academically, but spiritually and as a person,” he says. “You shouldn’t forget to give back.”