Whether waiting in line to balance an account at Student Financial Services or getting a PennCard, sooner or later, every Penn student will pass through the ground floor of the Franklin Building.
But few have any reason to make it up to floor seven. Fewer know anything about the man whose job it is to keep the billions of dollars moving through Penn going in the right direction.
He gets into the office around 8 a.m. -- after an hour and 15 minute-long commute from Princeton -- and stays until 7 p.m.
His job is to keep Penn in a position to pay its bills, run its hospitals and serve its students, making sure that, in his words, "we don't always live so close to the edge that one hiccup creates a problem."
He's Craig Carnaroli, Penn's treasurer and senior vice president for finance. And he has to make the University money the hard way.
"Some people think I have a printing press," Carnaroli says, cracking a smile as he gestures around his office.
There's no shortage of paper and folders -- enough to partially block him from view when he sits at his desk. There's a small conference table, some chairs, a bookcase. It could be an office in any law firm or brokerage house, just as the cheerful middle-aged man would look perfectly at home in any financial district in the world.
There is no visible means of printing money.
But he came to the job with over a decade of experience and a management style that seem to do the trick just as well.
Carnaroli's Hey Day hat, a little battered since he wore it as a junior in 1984, hangs over his office door. It's not as spotless as his resum‚, but it's what Carnaroli points to first as you look around the office.
Being a Penn alumnus has its benefits when it comes to doing his job.
"It certainly made it easier for me to integrate into the leadership team here," Carnaroli says.
"A meeting might be scheduled in Stiteler Hall -- well, I had a class in Stiteler Hall, I know where to go."
He adds that, since Penn is "a very fast-paced institution," having a feel for the University from day one made a difference.
"Penn is a place where you jump into the deep end and you learn to swim quickly, or at least reach the side," he says.
It's also the place he met his wife -- College and Wharton alumna Amie Thornton -- in Latin II his freshman year.
"She aced every test despite a less than perfect attendance record," Carnaroli says. "I figured, 'I have to meet this woman.'"
They started dating the next year, when they both took Walter Licht's course in economic history.
But for Carnaroli, Penn is more than just an employer and where he met his wife.
"This guy has a very intense love for Penn," says Penn's former business chief John Fry, who hired Carnaroli at the University. "He's the kind of guy who will not only work all day, but then he'll go to a basketball game at night afterwards -- that's one of the reasons why he's been successful, he has his own heart in it."
His success also owes something to work experience.
With an undergraduate business degree from Wharton, Carnaroli joined Credit Suisse First Boston straight out of college in 1985. After earning an MBA from Stanford University, he moved to Merrill Lynch in 1995, where he led a team of experts in nonprofit hospital and university finance.
His last year at Merrill was essentially his first at Penn. Having already helped develop the Health System's borrowing structure while still at First Boston, Carnaroli was later retained to advise the University and its health system when the finance guru caught the eye of Fry in January of 2000.
When Fry brought Carnaroli on board, he was only 37 -- "a pretty young age to be the CFO of an Ivy League institution," according to Fry.
But as University President Judith Rodin points out, gray hairs weren't a prerequisite.
"It's not age, it's experience and motivation and smarts and leadership skills, and Craig has all of those," she says.
"Craig definitely turned out to be one of my best hires," Fry says. "He not only knows higher ed cold, he also knows health care -- and obviously, knowing health care is very important to" Penn.
The Health System makes up around 10 percent of the $5.3 billion that comprises the net assets of the consolidated University. With tens of millions of dollars flowing through the system, the fiscal well-being of Penn's hospitals is very important indeed, especially as poor performance by UPHS can affect the University's investment ratings.
As Penn competes for investors' money with other institutions, Carnaroli's mandate is the same as it always was, especially as Penn's bond rating fluctuates.
After the Health System lost around $300 million between fiscal years 1998 and 1999, Moody's Investors Services, a crediting, research and risk analysis firm, downgraded both UPHS's bond rating and the University's as a whole.
Since then, as the system has returned to profitability, the University has gone back to a stable A1 rating with Moody's. Though rated below the financial powerhouses of the Ivy League, the lower rating offers Penn a flexibility Carnaroli says the University values.
"As [Chairman of the Board of Trustees] Jim Riepe said, sometimes to live in a more expensive neighborhood, you need a bigger mortgage," he says.
At the same time, Carnaroli says that, as part of the Penn administration rather than as an outside adviser, there are new dimensions to what he does.
He says that he likes being able to see long-awaited projects -- like renovations to Bennett Hall -- come to fruition, especially since, now, he has a hand in planning and prioritizing them.
"In investment banking, an institution has made a decision to finance a project and you're brought in to tell them how...," Carnaroli says. Here, however, the senior finance officer is a "part of the strategic decision-making process -- you're involved in deciding which projects to pursue."
Along with the provost, Carnaroli is often the man who has to say no to projects, to consider all the angles and to watch the bottom line. Despite what may seem like a job that lends itself to unpopularity, everybody seems to like Carnaroli.
"He is a really good leader of people," Fry says. "He tends to build a lot of bridges, and frankly, I think he has a great following because he's a good guy," Fry says.
"He's completely honest and honorable and very forthright," Rodin says.
Rodin would know -- though Carnaroli reported both to Fry and his successor, Clifford Stanley, he has worked directly under Rodin both during the months between Fry's resignation and his replacement and since Stanley stepped down in October of this year.
"There are people who work within silos and protect their turf, and then there are people like Craig," she says, adding that she also thinks that people "just admire his capability."
And so do his subordinates.
Asked what works about Carnaroli's management style, Comptroller Kenneth Campbell -- who reports directly to Carnaroli -- simply says, "Everything."
"Craig's an excellent, very bright individual, knows his job very well and quite frankly, works with those of us who work for him extremely well -- he's a very collaborative individual," Campbell says.
Coming from a field that many feel values and encourages individuals who stand out and claim as much personal credit for success as they reasonably can, Carnaroli says he likes the "good depth of people" at Penn. "If you go two or three levels down in the organization, there's people who keep the place running, no matter who's in what chair," he says.
At an investment bank, "if my unit made a lot of money, I could get paid a big bonus," Carnaroli says. "There the focus is clearly on raising the share price, here the mission is tangible, but it's less quantitative -- Penn isn't just a company that produces education."Comments powered by Disqus
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