Q&A with CBT Chancellor’s Medal Winner Michael Blackshear
Michael Blackshear, who will receive a Chancellor’s Citation at this week’s Coming Back Together reunion, serves as the North America chief compliance officer for Chubb Insurance Co., the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company. Blackshear periodically lectures at universities and industry trade associations on compliance and risk management topics and serves on several advisory boards. As a Syracuse student, he participated in Omega Psi Phi Fraternity and on the University’s track and cross country teams. He and one of his fraternity brothers are spearheading the reinstatement of the Kappa Chapter-Omega Psi Phi endowed scholarship fund. Blackshear serves on the Management Department Advisory Board at the Whitman School of Management and is a 1991 graduate of the Whitman School. He is also serving this year as the Whitman School’s CBT chair.
01What were your initial ambitions when you were a student at Syracuse University? And how did they evolve?
My initial ambitions were to compete in track, for a Division One Big East University (I still struggle with the Big East realignment—whose bright idea was this?), obtain a college education and to expand my mind by meeting others who had a life journey different than mine. The evolution first started with my track career ending at the beginning of my sophomore year because of shin splints, while coming to the humbling realization that my high school track talent only measured up to an average runner at Syracuse University. I changed schools from Human Development to the Crouse-Hinds School of Business (now the Whitman School) and graduated with a finance degree. But more importantly, I met a diverse group of classmates that challenged my way of thinking and I established long-lasting relationships that still exist today.
02Looking back, what do you most value about your Syracuse experience?
Friends, fraternity, and establishing the building blocks for becoming independent, self-reliant and resilient during my years at Syracuse.
03How did you education prepare you for success?
My “Syracuse Experience,”which included my business education, laid the technical foundation for my career pursuit in compliance and risk management. I also attribute my years at Syracuse as developing my Emotional Intelligence (EI), which established the foundation for most of my personal and professional success. It is my EI that has guided my thinking, behavior and allowed me to manage and adjust emotions to adapt to environments and achieve my goals.
04Any words of advice for current students looking to achieve similar business success?
Dream big, fail big, but do not let fear become your master. Think outside the box and have a creative passion in the development of your dreams. Apply a strict discipline and work ethic in pursuing your vision. But most importantly, never confuse movement with progress and always remember that change is forever constant.
05What was it that motivated you to co-lead the Kappa Chapter-Omega Psi Phi endowed scholarship fund drive?
I did not get where I am today by myself—had help. I stood on the shoulders of others, and I still do so today. The cost of a college education today has become prohibitively expensive. By reinstating the Kappa Chapter-Omega Psi Phi endowment scholarship, it is our hope to defray these escalating costs and support the growth of our future leaders.
06What are your overarching goals for the scholarship?
We hope to reach our financial goals, and exceed them, in the next three years. We also hope to inspire other alumni in developing similar endowments for Syracuse University’s Program Development Office to financially support our African-American and Latino students.
07Why is CBT Important to you?
CBT is the opportunity to re-connect with old friends, meet new ones and reminisce about days on campus.