Good Luck and Then Some

Nick Moore ’63 attributes much of his success to luck—being in the right place at the right time. Luckily for Saint Mary’s, the former chairman and CEO of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), one of the most prestigious accounting and consulting firms in the world, has made a point of “being there” for the College over the years. He and his wife, JoAnne, have given more than $500,000 to SMC and this March, pledged another $500,000 to the Student-Athlete Performance Center.

“I try to do the best I can,” said Moore, who has directed much of his financial support to athletics, which he thinks offers students remarkable leadership training and also benefits Saint Mary’s by elevating the College’s visibility. He and his wife have supported annual athletic scholarships, the new recreation center, men’s basketball and rugby, as well as other funds that support the College in various important ways.  He and JoAnne are also fully sponsoring two current SMC students.

“At PwC, we hired 15,000 young people a year,” Moore said, “and made a point of looking for athletic backgrounds, as well as military service, because of the discipline involved, the collaboration and teamwork.” At Saint Mary’s “it takes a lot of talent and commitment to compete at the Division 1 level while also having to hit the books.”  He admires the scrappy resolve it requires to pursue athletics and succeed in rigorous academics at Saint Mary’s.

That same kind of resolve characterizes Moore’s rise in the corporate world in which he got his start in public accounting in 1968 in San Francisco but soon found himself in a new Coopers and Lybrand office in Palo Alto.  He had earned his law degree from the UC Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco. The East Bay native said the timing couldn’t have been better.

“My earliest clients included venture capital firms focusing on the emerging Silicon Valley—before it was called that,” Moore said. In serving these clients, the firm grew quickly, developed a large technology company practice, with Moore first leading the tax practice and then rising to head of the office. His role continued to grow as he assumed management responsibilities for the Western and Northeast regions, then became part of the executive committee running the firm, and, in 1994, was elected chairman and CEO of Coopers and Lybrand and moved to New York City. After orchestrating a merger with Price Waterhouse in 1998, Moore served as global chairman and US CEO of PricewaterhouseCoopers until 2001.

“I think my work in Silicon Valley really forced me to grow quickly,” Moore said. “It was a fast-paced environment of creative, innovative people, who were very demanding clients. It helped me develop technical competence and leadership skills.”

Moore wasn’t new to the feisty, tenacious kind of environment that characterized those embryonic days in the California tech industry. “I learned a lot from my classmates—natural born leaders, athletes, a close knit group,” Moore said. He counts some 20 classmates as lifelong friends. In a class that includes attorneys, CPA’s, business and investment professionals, a national poet laureate, Vietnam War heroes, a judge, professors, teachers, and other successful Gaels, Moore said, “it was a scrappy bunch of people. We were lucky, we worked hard, and we had a good foundation.”

Throughout his career Moore has applied principles of inclusivity and leadership learned from his Lasallian teachers and professors at Christian Brothers High School in Sacramento, where his father, who worked for Southern Pacific Railroad, was transferred, and at Saint Mary’s College. “I helped to inculcate in the firm a culture of diversity and even-handedness, bringing in talented people, retaining them and creating opportunities for leadership,” Moore said.

Moore also credits his parents for their focus on education, and believes the liberal arts were fundamental to  his success. “If you had asked me, as a 17-year-old arriving at Saint Mary’s, what classes I should take, I would have said all business classes, because I wanted to be a businessman,” Moore said, laughing. But, of course, he also had to take philosophy, theology, literature and Seminar. “And, guess what? Those things were more important than all my business classes. I developed communication and leadership skills—the things you need to succeed,” he said, adding that his education also helped him to understand and appreciate the evolution of human rights, “going back to Athenian democracy, to the foundations for this grand experiment we have in the United States,” he said, “and learning  to appreciate how fragile democracies really are.”

Moore, who served on the Board of Trustees from 1997 to 2006, including a term as chair, also has served on the Board of Regents and the advisory board for the School of Economics and Business Administration, believes both academic excellence and the mission of the institution must be preserved and are not mutually exclusive.  

“I’ve been pretty outspoken about these issues over time, but I think the College has done well, and that the curriculum focus is very balanced,” he said. He also thinks the College has successfully preserved the Lasallian values of inclusivity and social justice. “These things are why I continue to be enthusiastic about Saint Mary’s.”

Moore retired from PwC in 2001 and since then has served on several major boards, including Bechtel, Wells Fargo, Gilead Sciences, NetApp, and Brocade.  

Finally, beyond the quality of his own education and the early experiences that honed his business success, Moore said, the fortunate life he has lived was hugely impacted by his wife JoAnne, a graduate of Holy Names College. As luck would have it, they met at a party after a San Francisco 49ers game, attended mostly by Saint Mary’s, Holy Names, and Dominican University graduates. The couple has four successful grown children, one of whom, his son, Garrett ’93, is a Gael, as were Moore’s two uncles and his brother, Brian ’61.

Nick Moore may humbly say that this good life he’s built was mostly luck, being in the right place at the right time. But it’s probably more than that. Good luck and then some.

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