Profile in Philanthropy: James Buonomo ’74, ’76MBA
January 04, 2019
“Drive, teamwork, and inclusiveness. Those values, instilled at Isenberg, made a lasting, positive difference in my career,” observes Jim Buonomo ’74, ’76 MBA, the former Chief Financial Officer of NYPRO, a global manufacturer of precision plastics. “At UMass and Isenberg, a great education is attainable no matter what kind of background you come from.” With that said, Jim and his wife and lifelong partner, Paula, view their financial support for Isenberg’s Business Innovation Hub as an investment in those values, in Isenberg, and in its students.
Jim and Paula offer a quintessential UMass story. High school sweethearts from Shrewsbury, they married in 1973 when Jim was an undergraduate. In a true team effort, Jim went on to earn his MBA while Paula put him through Isenberg, working at the College of Engineering and the Alumni Office. After Isenberg, Jim began a diverse career, culminating with 17 years at NYPRO, a fast-growing Clinton, Massachusetts–based manufacturer focusing on healthcare and consumer product packaging. “At NYPRO, I had about nine different jobs,” Jim recalls. Before his six years as the company’s CFO, he built the company’s presence in Asia, including its fast-growing businesses in India and China.
“I was gone six or seven times a year for weeks at a time,” he says. While Jim attended to international affairs, Paula deftly handled the domestic side of their team-focused partnership, devoting her energies to the couple’s two children. “I loved building the company in Asia . . . but you don’t always have the power you think you have. I was the ‘corporate’ guy,” he remarks. That called for skills learned at Isenberg: team-based collaboration and maximizing inclusiveness.
“Collaboration is a big part of being successful,” Jim emphasizes. “With successful teamwork, you can have lots of leaders; people need to know when to step up.” Successful collaboration must also transcend internal conflict. “There will be discord. It can happen any time in an organization. How do you complete the task and mission? Anyone can lead when times are good.” As for inclusiveness, he says, “Today you have to work across so many different cultures. Students need to understand that—firsthand.”
They also need top-notch preparation to make the most of those future experiences. Hence, Jim and Paula’s investments in Isenberg’s Business Innovation Hub and their earlier endowment for undergraduate experiential learning. Why support Isenberg? “You graduate with indispensable skills. And UMass is a great school, but without elitism . . . without pretentiousness.”