Dean, Tobin College of Business, SJU
Highfield has been president of St. John’s University Tobin College of Business for a little under two years.
What one factor is most important to success?
Passion for what you do. A sense of humor, too. They both help you through the difficult times, but passion makes the good times feel like it isn’t work at all. The successful St. John’s graduates I have met are very passionate people.
What do you look for in an employee?
Initiative and loyalty. The initiative ensures that good ideas get implemented, even when they aren’t yours, or you aren’t there. Loyalty means that the initiative will be consistent with shared values.
What’s the best way to save money?
Make it routine. Make your savings (and, hopefully, your charity) off the top, the first thing you do with your money. It’s an investment. You’ll get used to living with the rest.
What’s the best way to spend money?
To spend money only on the core, important things, the need-to-have things, not the nice-to-have ones. You can also learn some helpful techniques here at the Tobin College—but it boils down to figuring out what is important.
What’s your greatest pleasure?
I sing in a choir. It’s hard to say that this is my greatest pleasure, since I love my family, and I love my work, but it’s the greatest pleasure about which I am completely selfish.
What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?
I feed the cat, make coffee for me and my wife, and read TheNew York Times.
How do you deal with stress?
Sometimes I blow off steam with someone I completely trust—and other times I go sing with people who want to do nothing more than make beautiful music. For me, it’s mental more than physical—finding something forward-looking to focus my mental energy on.
What one lesson do you hope to pass on to your children?
Define success by what is truly important to you, not to others, and do what you do for the fun of it, not for the financial rewards.
How do you bounce back from adversity?
I’m pretty good at putting the past behind me and looking toward the future—so I don’t waste much energy on things that I can’t (or no longer can) change. I learned this from my mother—but it turns out that it was reinforced when I studied economics. So, at St. John’s part of what we’ll teach you is why your mother is right.
What’s your favorite thing about Queens?
The wonderful, hardworking people from so many different parts of the world. People in Queens need to work, but they seem happy to work—and this makes them fun to work with. This is especially true for our students in the Tobin College at St. John’s.
Highfield’s career is thick with economic expertise. He became dean of the Peter J. Tobin College of Business at St. John’s University in 2003. As dean, he runs the College of Business’ academic components as well as its administrative ones.
A graduate of Stanford University, Highfield holds an MBA degree from Santa Clara University and a Ph.D. in econometrics and economics from the University of Chicago. He’s done academic research in monetary economics and business forecasting, and has served on the executive board of the MBA Enterprise Corps (a program that places MBA graduates in Peace Corps-like assignments in emerging market economies).
Highfield is also on the board of Student Agencies, Inc. of Ithaca, N.Y., the country’s oldest student-run corporation.
Highfield was host of the weekly television show “Business Matters” in Schnectady, N.Y. He was also Dean of the University at Albany School of Business, SUNY for four years, and an associate dean at Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management.