Alumnus and Navy Veteran Reflects on Storied Marketing and Communications Career

November 9, 2020

When Geoffrey Toole ’77SVC applied to colleges, the only school that held his accepted seat while he completed his military service was St. John’s University. “St. John’s was not just the only school to honor my request but to answer my correspondence,” he recalled.

The Communication Arts major joined the United States Navy upon graduating from Monsignor McClancy Memorial High School in 1970, serving as a Communications Technician overseas during the Vietnam War. Following his active service, Mr. Toole remained in the US Navy Reserve until 1994.

A native of Woodmere, NY, Mr. Toole recalled his time at St. John’s fondly. “St. John’s prepared me for the future through great professors who taught me my craft and emphasized that hard work—not just talent—helps you achieve your goals.”

During his time at St. John’s, Mr. Toole worked full time to pay the difference between his veteran’s benefits and tuition and scheduled all of his classes in the morning so he could still complete an eight-hour shift. “I would study and do projects when I got home from work, so I missed out on a lot of campus life,” he explained. “However, I did attend many concerts at St. John’s and spent time speaking with my fellow students about film and marketing at the commons.”

Many of Mr. Toole’s professors were working professionals, such as John A. Gambling of WOR RadioNew York Daily News film critic Kathleen Carroll, and documentary filmmaker Alan Seeger. Thanks to these accomplished experts, Mr. Toole received a firsthand glimpse into the media field, which served him well throughout a 30-plus year career in marketing, advertising, and public relations.

Upon graduating from St. John’s, Mr. Toole found work as a writer at an advertising agency; his search was hampered by employers who did not want to hire veterans. “I just kept going forward until someone was willing to give me an opportunity,” he stressed.

Throughout his career, Mr. Toole found himself working in an ever-evolving media landscape beginning with print, radio, and television, and culminating with the internet and social media. “That is the reason I went into that field—because each day was different from the last. I would have been bored just sitting at a desk all day doing the same thing over and over. Being a marketing and advertising professional at many companies, including JPMorgan Chase & Co., allowed me such a variety of experiences.”

Mr. Toole believes that communication skills are a critical element for success, as is a larger understanding of the world and how it constantly changes. “Young people need to express to today’s employers how they can effectively observe the human condition and how communication affects changes in that condition,” he said. “Students need to show an understanding of customer and market segmentation when meeting with a potential employer.”

He added, “At St. John’s, I learned that there are never any bad ideas, but the bad implementation of a good idea. This theme carried me through a successful career in marketing and communications, and it was something I always emphasized when asked to speak with students or to my own direct reports. Based on my experience, I would recommend a St. John’s education to anyone.”