Story originally appeared in Rutgers Magazine
Robert E. Campbell still sees similarities between his twentysomething self and today’s graduate students at Rutgers Business School–Newark and New Brunswick (RBS). Whenever he has an opportunity to speak to them, Campbell SB’62 is reminded of his time at the business school. He would work all day at Johnson & Johnson (J&J) in New Brunswick and then hop on the train to Newark for evening classes, working toward his M.B.A.
“I’d grab a hot dog at Penn Station and then walk over to the school on Washington Street and do my thing,” Campbell recalls. “Back in 1962, it wasn’t something everybody did. But Rutgers afforded me that opportunity and it was great.”
So great, in fact, that Campbell’s 2001 gift helped Rutgers establish the Robert E. Campbell Endowed Fellowship. The Campbell fellowships are awarded to full- or part-time students based on academic merit and financial need. More than 150 students have been named Campbell Fellows since the award was established. As Campbell notes, the world has changed a lot since his grad school days at RBS, but opportunity and hard work remain a constant for young professionals trying to get a leg up in today’s business world.
Campbell grew up in Passaic, New Jersey, a city with a past similar to that of New Brunswick: “a vital city where everybody came to shop on Friday and Saturday nights.” After he graduated from Fordham University, he was recruited to work at J&J. He left to serve three years with the Air Force, returning to J&J in 1959. He remained there his entire career, beginning as an accounting trainee and eventually rising to chief financial officer and vice chair of the board of directors, until his retirement in 1995.
Under Campbell’s watch as head of the Professional Sector, J&J introduced major medical devices including disposable contact lenses, endosurgery instruments, and cardio-vascular stents. Campbell helped J&J grow from a domestic company primarily focused on consumer products to an international corporation with a leading edge in pharmaceuticals as well as professional devices.
That’s a long way from train rides and hot dogs at Newark’s Penn Station, but Campbell has never forgotten Rutgers and the spark it gave his career. In the early 1990s, he was instrumental in establishing the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, ensuring that Garden State residents had access to “the finest care possible, right here in New Jersey.” Now known as Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, it remains the state’s only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center.
As for his Rutgers legacy, Campbell says, “my only hope is that Rutgers would be proud of me as an alumnus and that some of the things I was able to accomplish could be a model for others.”