Jim Cuminale ’75, P’09 inspires others to give back, pay it forward
By Julia Chianelli
Jim Cuminale ’75, P’09 fondly remembers working at his father’s paper mill during his junior year at Trinity College and learning how to run the whole gamut of business: from manufacturing to sales to operations. Cuminale credits those formidable days with helping shape the person he is today. “I learned my father’s business approach and his pragmatism,” says Cuminale. “It marked how I manage my career.”
Cuminale was born in Amityville, Long Island, and lived there for eight years before he and his family moved to Greenwich, Connecticut. One of four children, Cuminale is proud of his Italian-German roots and his family. “My parents grew up during the Great Depression and didn’t go to college,” he says. “I had an awesome family. My mother was a traditional stay-at-home mom. My father was my role model and hero, who built his own business, supported the family, and afforded me the opportunity to study at Trinity and Vanderbilt University Law School.”
GETTING PEOPLE TO THE STARTING LINE: PRICELESS
Cuminale’s passion and love for Trinity combined with a meeting with Director of Development Chris French inspired him to become more engaged with his alma mater. He began by joining the Board of Fellows on the heels of the Trinity graduation of his daughter, Jennifer ’09. “I witnessed firsthand what a Trinity education did for her,” says Cuminale. Now she is working in corporate communications at Ralph Lauren in New York City and is pursuing an M.B.A. at New York University.
“Scholarship struck me as being meaningful,” says Cuminale. “To attract the best and the brightest students to Trinity is very important. To me, the first step in achieving this was to support the Summit Scholarship Program.” Cuminale was one of the first contributors to the program since its inception in 2012. To date, he and other donors have helped to support 111 students.
“I later realized that it’s even more appealing when you endow a scholarship,” adds Cuminale. “President Joanne Berger-Sweeney pitched the idea to me during lunch one day.” In March 2015, Cuminale established the Cuminale Family Scholarship. “It was a perfect thing to do. I wanted to provide students the same opportunity that Jennifer and I had. To get them to the same starting line would be fun to see. To witness it long term is priceless.”
Cuminale also is a donor to the Presidential Financial Aid Leaders initiative, a two-year fundraising effort launched last October. “You can have a permanent impact on Trinity College and others,” he says. “The notion of a one-to-one match or lasting impact makes you want to do it. If you can’t do it alone, I encourage you to gather some friends to help make it happen.”
Last March, Cuminale was the featured speaker at the annual Scholars Reception. During his remarks, he said that one of the reasons he gives back to his alma mater in the form of scholarship is because he is grateful for the Trinity education he received. View pictures of the Scholars Reception on flickr.
A SOLID EDUCATION
Cuminale recalls his freshman year at Trinity when he had to take a career preference test. “It was clear to me that I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” says Cuminale. Fortunately, his academic adviser at Trinity changed that and pointed him in the right direction. Cuminale pursued liberal arts instead of science, majored in history, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa.
“The breadth of education at Trinity prepared me to go to law school and become a good lawyer,” adds Cuminale. “The legal profession requires constant learning. Trinity’s rigorous liberal arts education – voluminous reading and writing and complex discussions with professors – was invaluable. I found law school easier than studying history at Trinity.
“My professors at Trinity gave me their personal time. They were truly interested in their students and cared about them.” Cuminale recalls three professors who left an indelible mark on him. Among them was Glenn Weaver, who taught American history that focused on the American Revolution. “Professor Weaver was a unique character, and his lectures were out of this world,” says Cuminale.
He also remembers Edward W. Sloan, Charles H. Northam Professor of History, who taught at Trinity for 38 years. “Dr. Sloan was my adviser during the ’70s who always encouraged me to do more. He saw something in me and advised me to go to Vanderbilt University Law School.” Then there was Professor H. McKim Steele, a history professor who taught Middle Eastern religion. “These professors spent a lot of time with me and offered their pearls of wisdom,” says Cuminale. “I loved the collegial and collaborative environment that Trinity fostered. It paved my way to a successful legal career.”
In July, Cuminale became general counsel at PJT Partners, a financial services and mergers and acquisitions advisory firm in Manhattan. Prior to that, he served as chief legal officer at The Nielsen Company in Wilton, Connecticut, for nine years, where he managed a team of 45 attorneys worldwide and oversaw all legal affairs, including intellectual property, litigation, transactions, risk management, and mergers and acquisitions.
Cuminale stresses the value of offering support not only to your alma mater but also to the place in which you live. “It’s an important part of my life,” he says. “You have to find the time to balance your career as well as to engage in your local community.”
Cuminale serves on Trinity’s Board of Trustees and the board of the local ambulance service in his hometown of Darien, Connecticut. He has served as chairman of the Board of Social Services and the Board of Education in Greenwich, as chairman of the board of the American Red Cross Greenwich Chapter, as secretary of the board of the Greenwich Public Library, and as a member of the board of Greenwich Emergency Medical Services, the ambulance service in Greenwich.
“When you give back your time, treasure, and talent,” he says, “not only do you make new connections and develop skills you never knew you had, but also the entire experience energizes you.”
To learn more about the Presidential Financial Aid Leaders initiative, please contact the Advancement Office at (860) 297-2369.