Ivan Seidenberg grew up in the Bronx and attended New York City public schools. By his own admission, he rarely ventured past the few blocks surrounding his home – physically or intellectually. After attending and graduating from Lehman College in 1972, he rose through the ranks of Verizon Communications and its predecessors to become Chairman and Chief Executive Officer before retiring after 2011. For his accomplishments and contributions to the world of technology, Seidenberg was this year awarded the 2013 Distinguished Alumnus Award by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU).
Lehman President Ricardo R. Fernández was there to introduce Seidenberg and present the award. “When it comes to technology and communication, there is no question that he is a leader, and there is much that we in higher education can learn from him,” he said. He found parallels between Seidenberg’s leadership in his company’s technology evolution and Lehman’s own challenges in meeting the needs of its constituent’s thirst for new technology.
In accepting the award via video, Seidenberg praised Lehman College for the vital role it plays in the Bronx and New York City in transforming the lives of young people.
“Once upon a time, I was one of those young people—a kid from the Bronx—whose life was changed by the power of a public university,” said Seidenberg. “By going to college, I prepared myself for a long career at New York Telephone and eventually Verizon. Both institutions expanded my world view, exposed me to diverse people and points of view, and challenged me to achieve more than I ever thought I could.”
Seidenberg began his career as a cable splicer’s assistant at New York Telephone, eventually becoming head of NYNEX in 1994. He later took a senior position with Bell Atlantic after its merger with NYNEX. When Bell Atlantic became Verizon, Seidenberg was sole CEO of the company. He is credited with the vision of a wireless and broadband world that helped transformed Verizon into a premier global network company, and helped transform the way people around the world communicate.
“Think about this, the freshmen who began at Lehman College this year do not know of a world without mobile phones,” said President Fernández. “It took visionaries like Mr. Seidenberg to lead Verizon and its partners in the evolution of wireless communications into the modern world. A world with a smart phone in every pocket or purse, and the information of the Internet available at the touch of a keypad. It’s a world that Lehman College is now confronting as we re-invent ourselves for the 21st century student.”
In 2007, President George W. Bush named Seidenberg to the National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee, which advises the president on communications issues related to national security, emergency preparedness, and the protection of critical infrastructure. He was appointed by President Obama to the President’s Export Council, which advises the President on how to promote U.S. exports, jobs and growth, and again to the National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee.
The award, presented to Seidenberg at AASCU’s annual meeting in October, is intended to direct national attention to the value of society’s investment in state institutions.