Alumni Profile: Ted Sybertz

Submitted by Virginia Weir, Assistant Director of Advancement Communications on November 2, 2012

My time at Fairfield was a critical one in terms of shaping my future….I am always impressed by the wonderful initiatives ongoing at the University and the opportunities that are provided today to Fairfield’s students. We want to see these initiatives continue…

Ted Sybertz ’72

Major: Biology

Occupation: Pharmaceutical Scientist (retired)

Why Fairfield…

At the time I was applying to colleges, I was interested in small, liberal arts schools–preferably a Jesuit institution—and my high school guidance counselor connected me to Fairfield. I visited the University and found the campus to be wonderful, and the people very warm and inviting. It was an overall good fit and an easy decision to attend Fairfield.

Spring Break Service Trips

Many of my Fairfield experiences seem to have blended into one overall fond memory and impression that I have of those four years. Specifically, I warm-heartedly remember spending two spring break periods volunteering. The first year, a big group of us went to rural Kentucky on a bus and we helped the community in miscellaneous projects around town. Most of the projects we worked on were repair and maintenance. The second year, four of us took a van to Georgia and worked at helping a family construct a new home. In both trips, the work was organized through the local churches. Seeing a world that was very different from that of Fairfield, Conn., was a profound experience.

A Career in Pharmacology

I graduated from Fairfield with a degree in biology and had developed an interest in drugs and how they worked. I chose to pursue graduate studies in pharmacology, which is the study of the effects of chemicals on biological systems, thinking that I would pursue an academic career. During graduate and postdoctoral studies, I developed an interest in drug discovery and decided to pursue a career in the pharmaceutical industry as a discovery scientist. I started out at Schering Plough, and 20 years later moved on to Geltex Pharmaceuticals and finally Genzyme Corporation.

After a rewarding career of 32 years, I am now retired, but stay active professionally in helping to start new companies and through an appointment at the Harvard School of Public Health. I am also on the advisory board for Fairfield’s College of Arts and Sciences.

Recently, I had the honor and privilege of being inducted into the Fairfield Zeta Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. In the keynote address I delivered, at that event, I shared some of the early decisions I made that set the path for the rest of my career. I related to those students that my career path was not planned out from the beginning and that it was the compilation of opportunities and good fortune over time.

Influential Faculty: Dr. John McCarthy

I took two psychology courses from Dr. McCarthy (who is still on the faculty in the Psychology Department) and found his lectures stimulating, engaging, and entertaining. I was not a psychology major, but found that these courses provided me with a very good understanding of human development and personality.

I played ice hockey while at the University and Dr. McCarthy was also my coach. I found his words of wisdom and advice very helpful. I enjoyed playing ice hockey, but my focus was on academic achievement. At the time, ice hockey was a club sport (as it is now, although it was varsity for many years after I left). I don’t recall any specific advice from Dr. McCarthy, but he always treated the players as adults with respect and dignity. Dr. McCarthy was encouraging and supportive in any way he could be. We played at the Wonderland of Ice in Bridgeport.

Skills and Values Learned

Skill: Open-minded critical thinking. Jesuit principles helped me to understand and analyze situations from multiple perspectives, including the strengths and limitations of all perspectives around an issue—what is known and not known, strength of evidence supporting or refuting any given position. Ultimately, I take an informed viewpoint or action based on such an analysis. I also keep an open mind, recognizing that viewpoints need to change as new information comes forward.

Value: A compassion for those less fortunate. The driving force behind my professional pursuits has always been to find new medicines to help make others’ lives better.

Why I Give Back

My wife Sharon and I are strong believers in higher education in the liberal arts, and support several Universities with such missions. My time at Fairfield was a critical one in terms of shaping my future. I feel that the University had a very positive influence on me in this regard. In addition, I am always impressed by the wonderful initiatives ongoing at the University and the opportunities that are provided today to Fairfield’s students. We want to see these initiatives continue and we do what we can to see that students can indeed benefit from what the University has to offer.

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