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Professor Trades Wall Street for Westerville, Otterbein after 9/11

Professor Trades Wall Street for Westerville, Otterbein after 9/11

By Alli Bates ’16 

Associate Professor Greg Sullivan’s career path took an unexpected turn due to unexpected circumstances. Before returning to college for his advanced degree, Sullivan was working as a commodity trader on Wall Street on Sept. 11, 2001—a day that would make him rethink his life and his career.

Sullivan now teaches sport management in Otterbein’s Department of Health and Sport Sciences, a major that enables him to share what he has learned during a 20-year business career and his love of sports with Otterbein students.

“I started my career as a commodity trader for a minerals and chemicals company in New Jersey. The company, Engelhard (now owned by BASF), owned the patent for the catalytic converter and needed to ensure a supply of the precious metal platinum, as it is a key component of the converter,” said Sullivan.

The company leveraged those trading relationships into gold and silver trading and he was hired to manage that risk. From there, Sullivan worked in many facets of the commodity business with such companies as Citibank, Deutsche Bank and Prudential Securities in trading, marketing and on to commodity finance.

“My last position was at an investment bank, Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein, where I worked primarily with precious metal mining companies to finance projects and create hedging programs that assisted them with price protection and creating cash flow,” said Sullivan.

Sullivan claims he left Wall Street for a number of reasons. Towards the end of his career, he had grown increasingly disillusioned about his career and whether he was living an impactful life.

“I was starting to plan an exit strategy and had gone back to school to get an MBA but I suppose the watershed event for me was being just a few blocks away on 9/11 and really being forced to evaluate my life and values. I knew a lot of people that never made it home that day and it motivated me to consider a career change,” said Sullivan.

With the support of his wife and three sons, Sullivan decided to return to school fulltime to pursue his doctorate degree. The program that was most congruent with his research interests was in Columbus at The Ohio State University.

“We had only planned on staying for a few years and heading back east but we quickly learned the central Ohio is just a great place to raise a family. While finishing my doctorate degree, I had the opportunity to teach as an adjunct at Otterbein and was fortunate to be hired full-time just as I was finishing my degree,” said Sullivan.

Sullivan considers his greatest professional achievement to be the successful career transition from investment banker to college professor.

“As I tell my students, it is important to focus on the journey because we never really know the destination. It is important to consider destinations and create goals but also remain flexible and attentive enough to know that the goals and destinations will change along the way. I used to equate success with titles and the number of digits in a paycheck but now it means enjoying what I do and with whom I am doing it,” said Sullivan.


Learn more about Otterbein’s Department of Health and Sport Sciences.