Story by Rob Gerth
Image by Jeremy Horn
Four fast friends making a difference.
Paul Knollmeyer ’87, Greg Geiling ’94, Dan Pietrzak ’97 and Rob Camacho ’04, demonstrate the power of friendships among Lehigh Business alums.
All are in the financial sector in one capacity or another. They met through business dealings over the years. In some cases, their Lehigh connection didn’t come up for weeks.
“I first met Paul maybe 20 years ago,” says Greg Geiling, managing director and COO at Bayview Asset Management. “We were working at different firms and somebody made an introduction. We’d probably had 15 work-related phone calls before we figured out that we both went to Lehigh.”
Each tells a similar story about how their professional relationship brought them together and grew into personal friendships sparked by their Lehigh Business connection.
“The Lehigh education gave us all a good foundation to go forward with our careers,” says Dan Pietrzak, partner, KKR. “It’s a school where the alumni have been involved and I think it’s important that it continues.”
“We realized we all felt the same way, where we have an incredible amount of pride in the institution,” says Rob Camacho, global head of asset based finance, The Blackstone Group. “And if we can help the next generation become successful, it helps not only them, but the school. It gets the flywheel going and that’s really our goal.”
As they shared their Lehigh experiences, they realized they were all looking for a meaningful way to give back.
“It isn’t really about putting our names on a classroom door,” says Paul Knollmeyer, CFO, HPS Investment Partners. “It’s about giving back to Lehigh through mentorship and helping undergraduates and young alumni advance in their careers. So, while it’s nice to see your name on the door, this was about making a difference with the students.”
While all four did make donations to the new Business Innovation Building, they were looking to go deeper.
Pietrzak explains, “We wanted the finance students, since we are all in the finance arena, to have access to better employment opportunities post-graduation. And we thought a mentoring program was a great idea to start that.”
“Early on, business is about spread-sheets and calculators,” explains Camacho. “As you move through your career, business is about understanding people and having connections. And for me, being able to call any one of these guys, and I do all the time, and ask for advice, they’re invaluable.”
They all had similar sentiments which led to the creation of the Lehigh Finance Mentorship Program. It’s a tiered strategy where senior mentors have mentees who are three to ten years out of school and then those mentees are resources for undergraduates and recent graduates. Both the mentors and mentees in the program are growing steadily.
“Success in various aspects of life typically means, in addition to the drive and the intelligence, you need to have a little bit of help,” says Geiling. “You need to have a little mentorship. You need somebody to open the door or give you that piece of advice that’s difficult to hear.”
“And there’s another reason to give back,” says Knollmeyer. “When you formed lifelong friendships, why not continue to foster that community to perpetuate that kind of environment where friendships can be built. I think that’s one of the greatest things about Lehigh.”