Richard C. Nerod ’59C, ’18HON never forgot his humble beginnings. He began working after school at the age of seven. When his father died suddenly six years later, he realized that to fulfill his dream of a St. John’s University education, he needed to finance it himself.
He worked multiple jobs throughout high school and scraped together the necessary funds to put himself through St. John’s, graduating in 1959 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Latin American and Caribbean Studies.
Mr. Nerod, who passed away last October, had a great love of alma mater and was one of St. John’s University’s most generous benefactors. He was a member of The Loughlin Society and The McCallen Society, two of the University’s premier giving societies. He also lent his support to the construction of St. Thomas More Church and endowed two scholarships in the graduate division of the College of Business Administration, now known as The Peter J. Tobin College of Business. At his retirement, Mr. Nerod was Group Vice President, International Operations, for General Motors (GM).
Mr. Nerod discussed his childhood in Mineola, NY, during a 2018 interview, recalling that his family lived in a small walk-up apartment above a local saloon. A standout student at Corpus Christi Parish School in Mineola, he helped support his family through several part-time jobs, one of which was making deliveries for local businesses.
Those jobs helped him pay his way through St. John’s; he was a member of the first class to attend the Hillcrest campus (now known as the Queens, NY, campus). At St. John’s, Mr. Nerod continued developing an unwavering work ethic that served him well throughout a successful business career. A member of the prestigious Skull and Circle Honor Society and an enthusiastic fan of the St. John’s Men’s Basketball team, he was also Sports Editor for The Torch and witnessed the team win the National Invitation Tournament in the spring of 1959.
Mr. Nerod credited the “dedicated staff and faculty members” of St. John’s with providing him with not only a first-rate education, but encouragement, motivation, and “lifetime convictions, including a wonderful relationship with my Creator.”
Upon graduation and after a year of active duty service in the United States Army, Mr. Nerod embarked upon a career with GM that enabled him to live in 10 different countries over the course of 28 years. After earning his Master of Business Administration degree from New York University, he received his first overseas assignment in GM’s Venezuela office.
He assumed roles of increasing responsibility in successive years, and was eventually asked to open GM’s operations in Malaysia and Thailand. Mr. Nerod was appointed Managing Director of GM Thailand in 1972 and GM Malaysia in 1974. He returned to GM Venezuela in 1977 and, under his leadership, the operation became one of the most profitable subsidiaries of the company. In 1980, he was transferred to the new GM España, which eventually became the company’s leading European producer.
Returning to the United States in 1991, Mr. Nerod was named Vice President for Latin American Operations for GM. Three years later, he was given responsibility for operations in the Middle East and Asia and, in 1998, he became the 10th ranking executive at GM to become a charter member of its Automotive Strategy Board, an elite group of leaders reporting directly to the corporation’s president. He retired in July of 2000, after nearly 40 years of consistent fiscal and sales success.
In addition to his steadfast support of alma mater, Mr. Nerod generously contributed to many worthwhile organizations, such as the Sisters of St. Dominic, Covenant House, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, The Salvation Army USA, Habitat for Humanity, Miami Rescue Mission, and Camillus House.
Previously honored with the University’s Outstanding Alumni Achievement Medal and the President’s Medal, Mr. Nerod received an Honorary Doctor of Commercial Science at the Commencement ceremony for St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in May of 2018, and his sense of gratitude was palpable. He encouraged graduates not to think themselves beneath any honest work.
“Accept or seek out assignments that others avoid or refuse to do,” Mr. Nerod stressed. “Turn obstacles into challenges. My life and career were filled with significant obstacles, which, in retrospect, provided me with a steady path for continual progress and success.” He told students to always be grateful for their St. John’s education. “Pay back, early and often, for the opportunity you received,” he said.
Mr. Nerod never lost his enthusiasm for St. John’s, especially Men’s Basketball, and every year he called St. John’s legendary Hall of Fame member and former Men’s Head Basketball Coach Lou Carnesecca ’50C, ’60GEd, ’00HON on his birthday. “Whenever he received that phone call,” noted William G. Schaeffer ’73CBA, Director of Development, The Peter J. Tobin College of Business, “Coach Carnesecca would say, ‘Dick Nerod is a real St. John’s man.’ We all would.”