Montag ardent Stanford Athletics supporterBy Tom Montag January 5, 2012, 10:25 pm
By Tom Montag
My mother grew up in Burlingame and when it came time to choose a college, I planned to play sports at Willamette University in Oregon, which was where I lived and is the alma mater of both of my parents.
This was in 1975, and my mom said, ‘Why don’t you apply to Stanford and just see what happens?’ I came from a big public high school – and at that time there was not much college counseling. It sounded like a great idea, so I applied and I got in.
I liked the idea of going to a school that valued and played big time sports. I tried out for the baseball team and played for a year-and-a-half – at that time they even had a freshman team. My coaches were Ray Young and Mark Marquess.
I also enjoyed watching the other sports. We struggled in basketball and had reasonable football teams, but then Bill Walsh came along and football really took off. One of my high school friends, Phil Francis, also came down from Oregon and was a starting running back for the football team. Later, he played for the 49ers and I believe he has a Super Bowl ring to show for it. I graduated in 1979 and really loved my time at Stanford.
I never interviewed for a full-time job while I was in school, I just focused on graduation. Then a friend and I got an apartment and I found a job working for a household consumer finance company making and collecting on personal loans in the Bay Area. This was quite interesting as it was the Volcker years when short term interest rates approached 20 percent. While having that experience I decided to get my MBA and applied to a number of schools. I ended up in Chicago at Northwestern and loved every minute of it.
It was my first time in the Midwest let alone Chicago. In the summer I worked for JP Morgan in New York. It was the early 80s and New York was a grittier place than it is now. I enjoyed the job but loved Chicago so I decided to stay there and went to work for a local bank – which ironically is now part of JP Morgan. I had Bears season tickets and Cubs tickets on the weekends. It was fantastic, but after three years, I knew I kind of needed to try finance in the big city.
In 1985, I was hired by Goldman Sachs and worked there for 22 years. I became a partner in 1994 and moved to London in 1996. Three years later, I moved to Tokyo and spent eight years there before moving back to the Bay Area.
During those years, I met John Ford and Julia Hartung, who ran the development office at Stanford. They were the first people to get me re-involved at the university. I’ll never forget when Ted Leland, then the athletic director, and Mike Izzi from development, came to my office in Tokyo to discuss the new football stadium. I had long yearned for a new stadium and was happy to contribute to the cause. A year or so earlier, I donated funds for a new video board after attempting to view it in the sun at a UCLA game.
I follow almost every sport we have, but I really like going to football games because they’re a special experience. I have also donated to academic scholarships, the overseas programs and women’s athletics. I believe there are two women’s crew skulls still in use that I donated.
After Goldman, I went to work at Merrill Lynch, right before Bank of America bought them. When the companies merged, I was given the job to run sales and trading. Pete Sauer, a former Stanford basketball standout, was working for Bank of America in the equity business. Alex Fletcher, a former football player, also works for the firm. He contacted me and we brought him in for an interview. People loved him, and we basically hired him that day. The next year, we brought in ex-football player Chris Marinelli, and we recently hired Pat Maynor and Greg Comella.
We have a number of people who work on the floor, and that has us much more involved with Stanford. We had a great recruiting class from Stanford of athletes and non-athletes alike last year. Here in the Palo Alto office in the summers, I think we have two or three Stanford football players working for Bank of America/Merrill Lynch.
For me, this is just one way of giving back. I was never thinking we could build a recruiting pipeline. The trading floor is a competitive environment. The kind of people that are competitive like it, and former athletes like it because there’s a lot of immediate feedback.
You’re competing all the time and you know how you’re doing. Plus, the Stanford graduates are good, smart and aggressive.
I live in New York now. My daughter, Jean, is a freshman at Stanford. I don’t think she ever went to a football game in New York and she’s gone to every Stanford game here. Now I can talk to her about football and academics.
I always remember telling the president how I thought having a good football program was just great for the university. I still believe it today. Being in New York is also great as the New York Times seems to love the student athletes at our school. They have written many articles the last few years highlighting the successes and individuals.
We are showing the country you can do it and do it right. Who would have ever thought we’d have big years like this?