With almost six decades of experience in technology and innovation, including as an Executive Vice President ushering an era of dramatic change at IBM, Nicholas M. Donofrio knows a great deal about transformation and strategy.
Donofrio, a scientist and engineer, is also the author of a 2022 book titled, “If Nothing Changes, Nothing Changes: The Nick Donofrio Story,’’ which offers a combination of personal anecdotes, business insight, and wisdom, woven in with the advice and guidance from 37 other, extraordinary business leaders.
Donofrio will be the keynote speaker at the School of Business’ Theodore R. Rosenberg & Mary F. McVay Business Leadership Series on March 5 at the GenRe Auditorium on the UConn Stamford Campus. His topic will be “Innovating for Tomorrow: If Nothing Changes, Nothing Changes.’’ The event begins at 5:30 p.m. and is open to all UConn alumni.
Speaker Believes in the Power of Transformation
Donofrio is widely regarded as the man who “saved’’ the mainframe computer. During his 44-year career at IBM, he was offered increasing responsibility, eventually becoming division president for advanced stations, general manager of the large-scale computing division, and then Executive VP of Innovation and Technology. During his tenure, IBM became a more market-centric company, redefining innovation and sparking worldwide collaboration for a new iteration of “Big Blue.’’
Upon retirement (‘I prefer to say ‘graduation’ ) in 2008, Donofrio was selected as an honorary IBM Fellow, the company’s highest technical honor. He holds seven patents, is a member of numerous tech and science honor societies, and was elected a member of the USA National Academy of Engineering, recognizing his contributions in the development of semi-conductor memory and technical leadership in computers.
Donofrio’s book, co-authored with Micael DeMarco, has been described as powerful testimony to a business leader’s ability to drive transformation, both within an organization and across generations. Among the business executives who contributed to its chapters are former IBM CEO Sam Palmisano, Apple’s former Senior Vice President Jon Rubinstein, Advanced Micro Devices’ President and CEO Lisa Su, the late director of the National Science Foundation John B. Slaughter.
“I wanted to capture their opinions, thoughts, and ideas around the premise that nothing changes unless you have the courage of your convictions to do something about it,’’ said Donofrio, who invested six years in the book’s development. “There is a wealth of knowledge and powerful information among those leaders, and I wanted to capture it.’’
Donofrio earned a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a master’s in the same discipline from Syracuse University. He has served on nearly two dozen boards, including the National Association of Corporate Directors, The New York Genome Center, and The Peace Tech Lab.
Parents Created Foundation for Success
But the foundation of his success began with his parents. His father was a first-generation American, the son of hat-maker who immigrated from Italy and settled in Beacon, N.Y. Donofrio’s father, also name Nicholas, pushed him hard and taught him that almost anything is possible if you put your mind to it.
“He was a sparkplug; a very social, a fun-loving guy. He was very smart, but prided himself on hiding that,’’ Donofrio said. “He was a rough-and-tumble guy who also played the violin. He understood things better than most. He was constantly fixing things that no one else wanted. We couldn’t afford to buy a power lawn mower, but he took apart someone else’s and used a salt shaker as a mold to fix the gas flow issue.’’
Nevertheless, the younger Donofrio often got in trouble, and justice was meted out at the dinner table. “I learned to eat incredibly fast,’’ he said.
The title of his book came from a conversation on the front porch in which his father explained a philosophy using these words, which became a guiding light in his son’s professional career. He will share that story and others in the presentation.
After leaving IBM, Donofrio created NDM Consulting, and he directed and advised a wide range of enterprises in both the U.S. and Europe. Most recently, as a member of the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering, he was designated co-chair of the Connecticut Legislative Task Force on AI. He also remains active in supporting diversity, equity and inclusion in the STEM disciplines.
“I see innovation as the goal of all, for all and by all,’’ Donofrio said.
Alumnus Michael Deotte ’98 MBA, Executive Director of Alumni Relations in the school’s Office of External and Alumni Engagement, said the lecture series is always popular with alumni. Previous speakers include alumnus Patrick Harris ’70, former VP and CFO of the NBA’s LA Lakers, and alumnus and former Walmart CEO Bill Simon ’81, ’88 MBA.
“We are committed to providing our alumni with meaningful opportunities for lifelong learning, and the Rosenberg-McVay Business Leadership Series stands as a testament to that commitment,’’ Deotte said.
“By inviting prominent business figures like Nick to share their unique experience about what it means to be a leader—the accomplishments, challenges, and insights—we not only enrich our understanding, but also foster a culture of innovation and effective problem-solving,’’ he said. “This series serves as a cornerstone in our mission to offer enduring opportunities for personal and professional growth.’’
The Rosenberg-McVay Business Leadership Series was created through the generosity of late alumnus Theodore “Ted’’ Rosenberg ’55 and his wife, Mary McVay. Pre-registration is required. To reserve a seat, please visit https://s.uconn.edu/rosenbergmcvays2024.
The evening will begin with a cocktail reception at 5:30 p.m., Donofrio’s talk and Q&A will begin at 6 p.m., and the evening will conclude with networking and book signing. The first 40 alumni registrants, who attend the event, will receive a hardcover copy of the book. If you have any questions, or require an accommodation to participate, please contact Jillian Comolli at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 860-728-2422.