Thomas J. Vincent, amember of the 1968 Sloan Fellows class at the Sloan School and a self-made multimillionaire whose first job was hawking newspapers on Baltimore streetcars for a profit of 9 cents each (he was eleven and saving for a 35MM camera), has made a $100,000 down payment on the Thomas J. Vincent (1968) Fellowship Fund, which he has established to support minority men and women pursuing graduate studies at Sloan.
He presented his $100,000 check to then Dean Glen Urban in August at a dinner in Cambridge held in his honor. In September the first Thomas J. Vincent Fellow was named: Peter K. Kaomea SM '94, a native of Kaneohe, Hawaii, who had been a project manager for the Naval Command Control and Ocean Surveillance Center in Kaneohe before he enrolled at Sloan.
Mr. Vincent, who works out of Hawaii, FL, and Bangkok on a number of entrepreneurial initiatives, promises that his fund will grow significantly not only during his lifetime but also "after I pass." With additional large gifts from himself and gifts that he plans to solicit from his Sloan Fellows classmates, his ultimate goal is to endow the Fund with more than one million dollars.
His largesse is not limited to Sloan. The father of two, he is closely involved in the financing of an orphanage in Thailand where several hundred children, many of them blind, deaf, or handicapped, reside. The handicapped children receive practical vocational training in computer sciences and other trades that enable them to become self-supporting. Because the healthy orphans have no clearly defined way to continue their education beyond high school, Mr. Vincent recently initiated a program to send deserving candidates to college, an expense they would otherwise find prohibitive.
Both philanthropies derive from the Thomas J. Vincent Foundation, which Mr. Vincent has established in Florida to rehabilitate and educate youth, i.e. men and women generally under the age of twenty-five, both minority and majority.
Thomas J. Vincent grew up in Baltimore in a family with modest financial resources. (There was money for the essentials, but anything extra, like the camera, had to be earned.) For lack of money he dropped out of Johns Hopkins University before he graduated (a circumstance that later distinguished him as one of the few Sloan Fellows ever to be admitted to the program without an undergraduate degree). Early in his worklife he developed a talent and reputation for turning around distressed businesses. Subsequent turnaround assignments with Fairchild Hiller Corporation and Baker Hughes, Inc. relocated him from Florida to Hawaii to Minneapolis to California to Houston, until ultimately his experience induced him to strike out on his own. In 1985 he and two partners bought into lackluster York Air Conditioning Division of Borg Warner, took it public (on the NYSE), renamed it York International Corporation, turned it around, and in 1988 sold it in an LBO that gave him the financial independence of which Sloan is now a beneficiary. Mr. Vincent today manages the affairs of the Thomas J. Vincent Foundation of which he is president, and oversees a vast array of private investments.
MIT currently defines minority as underrepresented African Americans, Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, and Native Americans. Mr. Vincent expects this definition, like his own businesses, residences, and Thomas J. Vincent (1968) Fellowship Fund, to change over time. He has no problem with the possibility that one day this might include his own current majority, white males.
PHOTO CAPTION: Thomas J. Vincent (right) when he returned to Cambridge in August to present his initial check for $100,000 to the new dean of the Sloan School, Glen Urban (left).
A version of this article appeared in the October 6, 1993 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 38, Number 9).