Back in his high school days, John S. Mengucci ’84 may have dabbled in computer programming, but he lived for music. In fact, he was selected as one of two students from New York state to participate in the McDonald’s All-American High School Band in 1980. He played drums at Carnegie Hall, marched in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and even flew out to Pasadena, California, to play in the Rose Parade.
“I figured … music is going to be it,” he says. He remembers vividly the day he sat at the kitchen table, talking to his parents about his career aspirations. “My dad looked at me and said, ‘You can’t make any money in music.’” John notes that his dad always had good advice; he just had to be mature enough to receive it. “So, I said, ‘OK, well, what am I going to do?’”
His father, the late John R. Mengucci ’51, suggested they visit Clarkson. “Dad said, ‘You know, you like this computer stuff. It’s totally new,’” he recalls. They made the trip from Canastota, New York, to the North Country to tour the campus. John observed classes and was intrigued by how they were taught. Compared to most schools he had visited, he thought Clarkson was very much on the leading edge. “I loved it. I applied, got accepted and got a scholarship to help revive the hockey Pep Band,” he says. “My dad went to Clarkson, and the campus just had a great small-town feel. I really enjoyed the people.”
John’s years at Clarkson were fun, yet tough academically. A member of Delta Upsilon, he jokes that, “We all got ourselves in trouble, but we learned an awful, awful lot.” He humbly admits that he may not have been the best student, but caring professors and the supportive family atmosphere created a learning environment in which students like him who worked hard could thrive — not only in school, but in future careers.
He credits Clarkson for a well-rounded experience that taught him how to learn, collaborate and demonstrate a strong work ethic. These skills have served him well in executive roles over his 27 years with Lockheed Martin and its predecessor companies and in his current role as president and CEO of CACI International Inc., a global provider of national security expertise and technology for defense, intelligence and civilian customers.
CACI is focused on national security every minute of every day. Facing known and unknown threats and developing cutting-edge technology solutions requires innovation, which can’t happen in a vacuum. The ultimate driver of innovation is collaboration, another hallmark of a Clarkson education. “I still remember a lot of group projects,” he says. “I got to work with folks who were far brighter than me, far quicker than me. I also worked with folks who looked at things differently.”
Igniting a Culture of Innovation
While John has proudly supported Clarkson over the years with donations and through engagement activities with students and alumni, he was recently inspired to make a major gift to support the University’s new Innovation Hub. He’s a firm believer that having this open, creative space on campus will further foster collaboration and connect students from across the arts and science, business, health science and engineering disciplines.
The Innovation Hub, housed in the Andrew S. Schuler Educational Resources Center, is two stories of space dedicated to helping students develop entrepreneurial mindsets and skill sets through the latest technology, interactive workspaces and peer guidance. Upstairs, students can utilize digital content creation suites, active learning and group collaboration rooms, a presentation rehearsal room, video production rooms and more. On the lower level, students have access to the Dorf Makerspace, which is complete with 3D printers, 3D scanners and other tools to create prototypes.
Like many of today’s leaders in industry and business, John says some of the most important skills needed in the workplace are not necessarily learned in the classroom. Four characteristics he regards even higher than knowledge and expertise are attitude, integrity, drive and being an overall well-rounded contributor to society.
The Innovation Hub is a safe space where students can develop these skills organically and refine them through their years at Clarkson.
John says, “It’s a real-life way that all students can recognize the value of collaboration and how innovation can solve the most difficult problems in the most unique ways.”