Alum paves the way for Fisher grads at J&J

When Eric Lenard (MBA ’97) arrived at Johnson & Johnson in 2003, he located just one other Fisher alumnus working for the New Jersey-based health-care products and services behemoth.

By this summer, Fisher graduates entering J&J’s prestigious Financial Leadership Development Program will outnumber recruits from other schools.

“We made 13 offers to Fisher finance and accounting students and received 11 ‘accepts’ from Buckeyes,” said Lenard, director of New Ventures Finance for Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc., maker of Acuvue, the world’s leading contact lens brand. Since 2004, Johnson & Johnson has hired more than 20 Fisher graduates, including co-ops and interns.

The company’s discovery of Fisher talent is a direct result of Lenard’s advocacy for the college.
Lenard was so certain Fisher graduates would perform well at the company he put up his own money to prove it.

“J&J wanted me to prove that Ohio State had qualified candidates. I was kind of a mercenary recruiter for J&J in the beginning, recruiting at several different universities like Illinois and Florida, but I wanted to get back to Columbus,” Lenard recalled about his early efforts in 2004. “(Company recruiters) told me they would let me go to Ohio State to identify recruits, but they would only pay for my plane ticket.”

With corporate headquarters in New Brunswick, N.J. less than one block from an Amtrak station that serves Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York City and Boston, J&J focused on schools along that corridor.

“J&J historically has been very Northeast centric in its recruiting of finance majors,” said Lenard, an Alumni Board member. “The 30 core schools include Rutgers, Penn State, Villanova and Wharton and lesser known ones on the East Coast. Those schools have really been the source of hires for finance and accounting positions.”

As the only apparent recent Fisher finance hire in 2003, Lenard set out to prove his own mettle and began ascending the ranks. He was promoted from manager to director after less than three years at the company. Prior to J&J, Lenard worked for six years at Procter & Gamble. At both companies, he noticed that some of his colleagues from the East Coast schools weren’t as knowledgeable about corporate structures, particularly a consumer products company.

“Northeast schools’ finance programs are so focused on Wall Street and investment banking,” Lenard said. “There is not a lot of emphasis in developing strong corporate finance managers. I felt like I had a much broader background.”

Lenard graduated summa cum laude in 1997, earning a bachelor’s degree and MBA through the three-two program. He won Fisher’s Robert S. Georges Pace Setter Award for top undergraduate senior, the President’s Award, for graduating seniors whose grade-point average is among the top 20 and a Graduate School award for being in the top 15 percent of his MBA class and top student in the MBA Finance program.

To begin building his case for Fisher students at J&J, Lenard called on his mentor, David Harrison, the director of Minority Student Services, to help him identify diverse candidates with strong resumes. With the assistance of Harrison and Career Services, Ohio State students are now a major presence at the company’s signature college recruiting event, “Day of Woo.”

“I brought in 15 people from Ohio State this year. That made us the number one school for finance,” Lenard said. “We will continue to bring in more people from Fisher. We are very impressed with the candidates we have been receiving from the college.”