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High-Powered Connection: Nick Stavropoulos ’79
This article originally appeared in the Bentley Magazine.
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Nick Stavropoulos ’79 knows about energy. Over his 30-year career in the natural gas and electricity-distribution industry, he has powered through – and often overseen – seismic changes in the sector’s technology, scale and mission.
As a Bentley trustee, Stavropoulos is among those working to give the MBA program a new charge.
“We’re doing well at the undergraduate level, and we’re doing a fabulous job attracting teaching talent,” says the Massachusetts native, who joined the board in 2009. “The MBA program exists in a very competitive environment. As we move forward, under President Larson’s leadership, I believe the entire Bentley community can work together to direct additional resources to the program and make it even more effective.”
Competitive environments are familiar territory for Stavropoulos.
The former Accountancy major interned for a summer at Lowell-based Colonial Gas, one of many small energy-distribution companies that dominated the field in the late 1970s. The company was facing hard times and Stavropoulos jumped in to help, working so effectively that his bosses offered him a permanent job.
A tireless problem-solver, he rose steadily through the ranks: comptroller; head of business development, customer service, sales and marketing; chief financial officer.
“We were a very successful regional company,” says Stavropoulos, whose early push to integrate information technology into operations helped Colonial earn the Smithsonian Award for innovation. “But it became clear that scale was going to matter in energy.”
As CFO, he convinced the board to sell the company. Colonial soon found itself part of energy giant KeySpan.
“KeySpan had a strong reputation for integrity, community involvement, and customer service,” says the alumnus. “These things have always been very important to me.”
In 2007, Stavropoulos’s path would shift again, with KeySpan’s purchase by National Grid. As executive vice president and chief operation officer for all natural gas operations in the United States, he has helped juice up the company’s presence in clean energy. For example, National Grid was the first to sign on with the Massachusetts Cape Wind project.
One personal priority for Stavropoulos is staying connected with Bentley. His trustee duties include serving on the board’s Academic Affairs; Business and Finance; Physical Facilities; and Student Affairs committees. He also has made a point of hiring Bentley students as interns.
“Bentley gave me an internship opportunity that led to the path I’ve taken,” he notes. “I wanted to give something back.”
Whether for his company or the Bentley board, Stavropoulos applies the lessons of forward-thinking leadership. “It’s important to plan ambitiously but very carefully. You have to, when you want to take on big things.”