Brian Fitzgerald, President and CEO of Easterseals NJ since 1989, came to Seton Hall back in the 1960s largely because of wisdom from his father. Growing up in Middlesex County and looking for a school that would help him facilitate a career in the military, he chose Seton Hall for its ROTC program, proximity to home, affordability, and perfect size. Fitzgerald said that Seton Hall fit his personality and met all his expectations. Graduating in 1967 with a B.A. in History, Fitzgerald spent five years active duty in the military and eventually returned home to pursue yet another degree from Seton Hall, this time a master's degree in Rehabilitation Counseling.
Upon finishing his master's, Fitzgerald received an internship with Easterseals NJ in 1974 which quickly turned into a full-time job. Easterseals is a nationwide nonprofit dedicated to changing the way the world defines and views disability by helping clients build the skills and access the resources they need to live, learn, work and play. His first position with the company was an employment counselor, though he quickly moved up to a different position. Throughout the years, Fitzgerald continued to move up throughout the company by possessing an attitude that "the road to success is always under construction." Understanding that his skill set would make the greatest impact on the administrative side of the company, he became CEO of Easterseals NJ in 1989. A great accomplishment for Fitzgerald, he noted that it was a goal he set for himself many years earlier.
Under Fitzgerald's leadership, Easterseals NJ has grown from a workforce of 400 employees with a $16 million-dollar budget serving 1,200 persons with disabilities in 1989, to a $106 million-dollar multi-corporate organization serving upwards of 7,000 annually with a workforce of more than 1,700. Easterseals NJ has one of the largest operating revenues of the 74 affiliates nationwide. He accredits this success to his team members, who work every day to positively change the lives of the disabled community.
This year, Fitzgerald was named a winner in the 2019 NJBIZ Icon Honors Award program. He has been credited with being an innovator in strategic planning for Easterseals NJ on both the local and national level and is a recipient of many awards for his service and leadership. One award that Fitzgerald is especially proud of is the Myrtle M. and Thomas B. Medders Award for Outstanding Executive Leadership, "given to people who have shown excellence and leadership within Easter Seals and in the nonprofit world." To be recognized in the same way as colleagues and peers whom he has looked up to has been "a high honor."
For students entering the professional world, Fitzgerald wants to them to know that it is always important to create a positive work environment that supports others in achieving their goals. Further, he says that "the best way to continue improving in your career is to keep setting goals for yourself. That way, you have direction and a way to measure how far you have come." Lastly, Fitzgerald wants students interested in the nonprofit world to know that it is crucial to choose a sector or cause that you are truly passionate about.
Brian Fitzgerald is great example of What Great Minds Can Do at Seton Hall.