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Alumni Spotlight

The Farmingdale Four 

A Q&A with British Airways Executive, Gregory Grage '75

Gregory_Grage_'75Gregory Grage isn’t a rock star, but he hangs out with them. Over the course of three decades as an executive with British Airways and travels that have taken him across the globe and back dozens of times, he’s not only racked up an impressive tally of frequent flyer miles but many famous friends, some of whom he met while traveling on the supersonic passenger jet Concorde between New York and London. (Trust us, if you are ever seated next to him at a dinner party, you are in for a treat.) Now retired, Grage took some time to reflect on Farmingdale, the school that proved to be his runway to an extraordinary career. We recently caught up with him and asked him “The Farmingdale Four.” 

Tell me your FSC story. Why was FSC the right school for you?  

When I graduated high school, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I grew up on Long Island and knew that I’d be most successful at a school where I could explore different courses, disciplines, and fields of study. And, thankfully, Farmingdale was ideal for that. I could enroll in liberal arts classes along with my business courses and really take the time to ask myself: what am I good at and what do I want to do for the rest of my life? Considering where I have gone, I would say that freedom to discover possibilities – a skill I learned at Farmingdale – has impacted me my whole career.

What memory – of a class, a teacher, a project – stays with you to this day?

There are three teachers I will never forget, and what unites them all was their passion for what they were doing. Like Mr. McNiff, who taught a course on salesmanship. His enthusiasm was infectious. And Mr. Boglioli, my finance teacher who always wore loud plaid sport coats but who made a dry topic come to life. Finally, there was Mr. Dedowitz. I think his course was on consumer behavior, but what I remember most is that he always brought in experts to serve as guest speakers. At the time I thought, this is genius, this guy is getting other people to do his job for him while he collects the check! But I realized later that he was giving us a broader view of the subject than he could otherwise offer. He wasn’t afraid to ask others to augment his experience – and we, his students, were the ones to benefit from that.

The FSC motto is: "to become all that we are capable of being." How has FSC shaped who you are today?

When people ask what I did for a living, I tell them: “I flew around the world in the best seats, stayed in great hotels, ate delicious meals, and talked to people.” Inevitably, the person will ask, “Well, how can I get that job?” And I laugh because I don’t know. I couldn’t have possibly imagined it myself when I was a student. But as I said, Farmingdale helped me dream big. I had an incredibly diverse career at BA, and it may not have always been linear, but I always welcomed opportunities and challenges. A lot of that willingness to try something new started at Farmingdale.

What would you tell a student just starting at FSC?

This may not be the business school-approved philosophy, but I tell the students I mentor that the two questions I ask myself when taking on a new role are: “Will I learn something?” and “Will I have fun?” If the answer is no to either of those, then don’t do it. I also tell people just starting out that they have two jobs – everyone does, really, but almost no one realizes it: one is to do the job you were hired to do, and the other is to keep that job. Yes, luck played a role in me surviving a dozen corporate restructurings at BA, but I also established great relationships with the people I reported to, whether they were across the office or across the pond in London. In fact, one of my first bosses told me something that didn’t make sense at the time but does today: “Don’t go too high too fast.” It’s true in aviation and true in life. A plane doesn’t take off straight up like a rocket; you carefully ascend to your cruising altitude. Find mentors to guide you and enjoy the ride.

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