John McCann ’90 | Business Administration
His Journey from Wall Street to State Street
John J. McCann has always been attracted to islands. Growing up in a working-class family in Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge neighborhood, McCann developed a solid work ethic that took him from Manhattan to Hilton Head. Along the way, he maintained a dedication to self-improvement, lifelong learning and sharing the lessons he had learned. “Success is a byproduct of hard work,” said McCann. “You can only attain success if you reach for it.”
After graduating from LaSalle Academy in Manhattan, he enrolled at Fordham University in the Bronx, but left after one year. In 1959, at the age of 19, McCann joined Merrill Lynch in New York as a clerk, where he kept track of the transactions of buyers and sellers – by hand.
McCann had no experience and no college degree, but he possessed a desire to achieve and succeed. That ambition fueled a 44-year career in finance that took him to the top of his field.
“Wall Street was a place where hardscrabble kids from Brooklyn and other parts of the city could go and take their shot,” recalled McCann. “On Wall Street, I found an industry where the harder you worked, the further you could go and I took advantage of every opportunity.”
He left Merrill Lynch in 1961 and held several positions of increasing responsibility with New York Stock Exchange member firms. In 1973, he joined Becker Paribas, where he rose to senior vice president. In 1984, he left New York to run operations at Bankers Trust of South Carolina and returned to New York a year later to join Integrated Resources.
In the early 1990s, McCann served in a variety executive management roles at Wall Street firms before joining Lynch, Jones & Ryan in 1994. At Lynch, Jones & Ryan, he served as managing director and chief operating officer and supervised construction of the firm’s headquarters. In 2001, McCann was appointed chairman and CEO of Bridge Trading, a Reuters Company, and retired from the company in 2003.
It was in the middle of his successful career, amid family responsibilities, long days at work and several volunteer commitments, that McCann started thinking about completing his degree. He started taking courses at Brookdale Community College in Lincroft, N.J., where a professor told him about Thomas Edison State College.
“I really enjoyed taking courses,” said McCann, who completed a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree in 1990. “Thomas Edison State College didn’t put up any extra hurdles. It is a lot like Wall Street. Anyone who wants to work really hard will be rewarded.”
McCann said he did not complete his degree for professional advancement but rather for personal fulfillment and to better position himself to help others.
“I got many things out of finishing my degree,” he said. “It helped set an example for the people who worked for me. They were able to see that this was something they could also do.”
In addition to taking courses, McCann realized he liked teaching.
During his tenure at Becker Paribas, he started teaching courses at the New York Institute of Finance, where he ultimately served as an adjunct instructor for 11 years. He also served as a volunteer for Abraham Lincoln High School in New York, where he taught an innovative program on the fundamentals of the financial services industry and helped students invest a hypothetical $100,000 and create their own portfolios.
McCann has also made an impact in his community outside the classroom.
He and his colleagues from Wall Street became volunteers with the Stapleton Athletic Club in Staten Island, where they served as baseball coaches for underprivileged, at-risk children. They enjoyed the experience so much that they later volunteered with the Children’s Aid Society Goodhue Center in Staten Island as basketball coaches for children with physical and mental disabilities.
“You work so hard to get what you have, but it is very important to give something back,” said McCann, an avid New York Yankees fan. “We enjoyed coaching as much as the kids enjoyed playing.”
McCann has also been an active supporter of his alma mater, serving as a member of the College’s Alumni Association Board of Directors and the Thomas Edison State College Foundation Board of Directors. During his tenure on the Foundation Board, McCann chaired the Foundation’s “Investing in Performance” campaign, which raised $2.5 million to fund academic and technological advancements at the College.
In 2012, after 12 years of service to the Foundation, McCann was named an emeritus member of the Foundation Board of Directors.
“It has been an honor to serve on the board and to watch the institution grow,” said McCann, who was honored with the 1999 Spirit of Edison Distinguished Alumnus Award. “It was amazing to see the vision become a reality.”
Since 2003, McCann and his wife, Valerie, have been active, year-round residents of Hilton Head Island, S.C. They discovered the area during McCann’s time at Bankers Trust.
McCann has served as a member of the Port Royal Plantation Landowner’s Association Board of Directors for five years, including three years as board president; and as a Hilton Head Island Parks and Recreation commissioner for six years, including two years as chairman.
Last year, he was appointed chair of the Technical College of the Lowcountry Foundation, which establishes private sector support through grants, scholarships and gifts to benefit the Technical College of the Lowcountry, one of South Carolina’s 16 public, two year technical colleges.
In 2012, McCann was elected to Hilton Head Island’s town council. He said the island is challenged with preserving its environment, managing residential development and creating a viable town center that creates balance for full-time residents, visitors and local businesses.
“I am not the type of person to complain about something and not do anything about it,” he said. “I decided to run for town council so I could contribute to the future development of Hilton Head Island and be in a better position to help preserve the many things that make it such a special place.”