Doctor of Commerce
With a talent for incisive analysis and dynamic decision-making and a passion for education, Sy Sternberg has made significant and lasting contributions as both a business and university leader.
During the eleven years he served as chairman of the board and chief executive officer at New York Life, the company became one of only three life insurers to earn top ratings from the four major rating agencies.
His leadership has been equally impressive at Northeastern.
As chair of Northeastern University’s Board of Trustees since 2008, he has partnered with President Joseph Aoun on every major initiative related to the university’s transformation: expanding experiential learning globally, focusing the research enterprise on areas of strength, and recruiting outstanding interdisciplinary scholars.
To advance this goal, Mr. Sternberg and his wife Laurie established the Sternberg Family Distinguished University Endowed Chair and the Sy and Laurie Sternberg Interdisciplinary Endowed Professorship.
He also led the board—in collaboration with Northeastern’s senior leadership—in two major initiatives: the university’s Long Range Plan, and its regional-campus expansion, which creates a new model for higher education that, in President Aoun’s words, “goes beyond the traditional boundaries of place.”
Mr. Sternberg himself is no stranger to breaking traditional boundaries. After graduating from City College of New York in 1965 with a BS in electrical engineering, he worked on missile systems and radar for Raytheon while simultaneously earning his MS in electrical engineering at Northeastern.
By 1973, he had moved to the Information Systems Department at Mass Mutual Life Insurance Company, and in 1981 was about to take over Mass Mutual’s MIS operations when its president had another idea.
Impressed by Mr. Sternberg’s proven insight and management capabilities, the president asked Mr. Sternberg to run Mass Mutual’s health insurance business. “Engineering is the best foundation for management,” Mr. Sternberg later said. “It trains the mind in problem-solving and decision making.”
Mr. Sternberg held a series of upper-level posts at Mass Mutual before joining New York Life as a senior vice president in 1989. He became chairman and CEO in 1997.
Currently a director of the CIT Group, Inc., and Express Scripts, Inc., Mr. Sternberg serves on several other boards, including Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City, and New York-Presbyterian Hospital. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Mr. Sternberg received an honorary Doctor of Engineering degree from Polytechnic University in 2006, and an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from City College of New York in 2010.