Boston Partners in Education was an early adopter of the idea that community collaboration could become a vital educational resource to students, and our organization soon became BPS’ leading connector. One of our earliest and longest-standing partners in that idea is State Street Corporation, which continues to have a major presence in Boston Partners’ leadership. Much of the credit is owed to former State Street Vice Chairman and Boston Partners Board Chairman Joe Antonellis, who has been the most stalwart supporter of Boston Partners in Education for more than a decade.
Joe first became involved with Boston Partners while working as Vice Chairman of State Street Corporation back in 2003. Looking for a way to give back to the community, Joe discovered that a former classmate and a State Street colleague were enthusiastic members of the Board at Boston Partners, and he was interested in learning more. He jokes that it became something of a tradition for State Street to represent itself in Boston Partners’ leadership with at least two members, demonstrating the strength of the enduring partnership between our two organizations. It wouldn’t be long before Joe would join in on the tradition, too.
Joe joined the Board during the second year of the Big Cheese Reads, the mainstay corporate fundraising initiative of Boston Partners. As the initiative grew into one of the bedrocks of support for our academic mentoring services, Joe discovered it was also his source of inspiration. He has participated as a Big Cheese Reader each year since, giving talks to Boston Public Schools students. Joe often shares his background as an ESL student—which is especially relevant, considering that more than 40% of BPS students are English Language Learners (ELL)—and how being bilingual has benefited him throughout his career.
“Here I am, a bank executive with my suit and my tie on, in these diverse classrooms. Some students are speaking English as a second language, and I know I need to make a connection as a Big Cheese Reader. I learned pretty quickly to take the tie off at least,” Joe laughs.
Joe remembers one young student in particular who was very keen on asking for advice about how to start his own business. Question after question, the student pressed Joe for ideas about how he could make it in business. Joe recalls: “I talked to him about how many people created businesses out of eBay. I talked to him about making good ideas and being involved. I told him, ‘You could do what my father did: moved to a new street, bought a lawn mower, and started cutting grass. Pretty soon we were running a major landscape construction company.’ That kid was great! Really enthusiastic.”
Although State Street has recently shifted their philanthropic strategy, they still believe that Boston Partners is their ideal model of a nonprofit organization. “State Street has always sought out things that were important to the city in their investments. In its history, they were major donors to affordable housing and education. We fit right into that. That’s why we’ve been around for so long,” Joe states.
Boston Partners has been around for awhile now, too — 50 years to be exact. Joe credits this to the organization’s agility and responsiveness. “I think the hallmark of any good organization with its nonprofit is the ability to be flexible, renew itself, make sure it is meeting the needs of its constituents, and change with times. Boston Partners has been able to do that,” he explains. Many of those changes have occurred during his tenure.
In an educational environment as diverse and expansive as Boston’s, Joe sees value in the mission of Boston Partners—we’re in the business of improving grades, but also the business of building relationships. Joe explains, “You become inspired by this work. You see someone that is helping the kids, and you are helping them help the kids.”
Though Joe Antonellis has since retired from State Street and stepped down as Boston Partners’ Board Chairman, he continues to serve on the Board, upholding the State Street tradition. We thank Joe and State Street for their unwavering commitment to the Boston Public Schools — an involvement which has helped shape Boston Partners in Education for decades.