The first time I met M&T alumna Jennifer Matthews (’85), I was pretty nervous. I had just had a college alumni interview with a doctor from Brown in a Palo Alto Starbucks, and was running late to my next interview. By the time I had found the office building where I was to meet my M&T interviewer, I was pretty flustered. When I finally sat down with Jennifer to begin my interview, however, I was struck by the very different direction our conversation went. While my other interviews tended to be only superficially about high school activities and interests, Jennifer took a genuine interest in my thoughts on nuclear submarine deterrence, the business implications of cheap Chinese silicon solar panels flooding the US photovoltaics market, and working at a bankrupt startup. As I left the interview, I felt both bewildered by the unexpected discussion and very happy to have met such a fascinating person.
When I got my acceptance letter from the M&T Program, I knew I had to thank the woman who had advocated for me and was the first interaction I had with anyone from M&T. We arranged for lunch at Il Fornaio, a great Italian lunch spot right in downtown Palo Alto. From the time the waiter first brought out the bread and olive oil until we had finished our Tiramisu, Jennifer and I talked about everything related to Penn and M&T, from her freshman hall mate who went on to be Barry from the national apparel chain Steve and Barry’s, to her wisdom on academics and her professional experiences after Penn. This was my Casablanca moment: I knew that this was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Now, every time I go back home to California, I make sure to email Jennifer and try to grab lunch with her. Relating what I’ve been doing here at Penn and hearing about Jennifer’s own life experiences and current goings-on serves as a great way to strengthen our connections to the M&T community and build a friendship that goes well beyond our shared academic backgrounds.
This past summer, I returned to the office where I had first Jennifer, not as an eager applicant to Penn, but as an intern. Jennifer’s husband, JR, operates a midsize private equity fund called Tregaron Capital. After a couple of my lunches with Jennifer, I spoke with JR about my professional interests and we discussed possible ways I could gain experience in financial services over the summer. In August, I spent my days at Tregaron sourcing deals, evaluating potential acquisitions, working on models, and generally got great exposure to private equity at all stages of a deal. For this fabulous opportunity, I can directly thank Jennifer and the M&T network.
Jennifer has been a great mentor from the very beginning, and more importantly a great friend. Though I did not get to know many of my alumni interviewers beyond the narrow context of college admissions, Jennifer proved to be a great person to know, and a testament to the strength of the Management and Technology community.