The Ehingers will be the first College of Liberal Arts alumni to have a campus building named for them.
By Mary Jo Patterson
Marianne and Tony Ehinger met at Drew in the late ’70s, grew close and married a few years after graduation. Three children and, for Tony, a long career on Wall Street followed. Now they’ve decided it’s time to take a pivotal role in Drew’s future.
The Ehingers have donated $3 million—the single largest gift ever received from living graduates of the college—toward a $12 million renovation of Drew’s University Center. When the project is completed one year from now, it will re-open as the Ehinger (pronounced “ENG-ger”) Center. The building will be the first to be named after alumni. Nice, but hardly the point, the couple says.
“We didn’t need a monument to ourselves, that’s just not who we are,” says Marianne C’80. “We’re giving back because Drew changed our lives. We have fond memories. Tony met great professors who turned him on. We wanted to enhance the university, and this is a project that’s been a lot of fun.”
Those memories date back to 1979, when Tony Ehinger C’80, now 53 and a university trustee, approached Marianne Hyzak outside the UC and asked her if she’d like to go to his room and listen to Bruce Springsteen. She said no, but he persisted. Hyzak, from Clifton, N.J., had transferred to Drew in her junior year and majored in sociology. Ehinger, an English and economics major, played soccer and lacrosse, worked as music director for the college radio station WERD (now WMNJ), produced three concerts and socialized with a tight group of friends. Born in Whittier, Calif., he had moved around the country—his father worked for Western Electric, the manufacturing arm of AT&T—and eventually landed in Summit, N.J. At Drew, he says, “I probably didn’t apply myself as one should have, but there were a lot of terrific professors who had a meaningful impact on my development, particularly around my ability to put my thoughts together and write.”
After college Ehinger spent four years selling computers and phone systems. When a friend went off to graduate school, he considered getting an MBA himself and becoming, perhaps, an executive at an up-and-coming tech company. He was accepted at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, where the buzz was all about Wall Street. “The sales and trading thing was something everyone wanted to do,” he says. Soon he did, too, joining the First Boston Corporation in 1986. He spent 25 years with Credit Suisse, which acquired First Boston, before retiring as co-head of global securities in the investment bank division in July.
Ehinger credits his business success to his ability to thrive amid flux. “I view change as an opportunity,” he says. “I’m low maintenance, kind of a self-starter and reasonably even keeled, so the wild cycling swings of the business don’t really get to me. When things get really high-pressured and very intense, I tend to enjoy it more.”
Ehinger marked his 30th class reunion by working with his classmates to raise a half-million dollars from members of his graduating class to renovate the Pub. Then, believing Drew needed a high-energy social hub, he went further, committing $3 million to the project. “Having had three kids go through college, it’s clear the student center features prominently in a student’s decision to attend a university. Because Drew has no sororities or fraternities, it needs a strong location for a vibrant social life,” he says.
The renovation will raise the roofline, usher in light through high windows and redo the floor plan. New features will include a Starbuck’s-style café, two fireplaces, a lecture hall and the WMNJ studio. Ehinger consulted with architect Pamela Rew of KSS Architects of Princeton, who was struck by his understanding of design and attention to detail. “Tony also understands the current generation of students,” she says.
With homes in New Vernon and Mantoloking, N.J., the Ehingers look forward to the next phase of their life. Both enjoy travel, gardening, golf, cooking and spending time with their kids, Kristen, 25, Michael, 23, and Patty, 21, a senior at Bucknell. “We have really big dreams,” Marianne says. Tony insists his canvas is blank. “I’d like to do some other things now. Something charity oriented.”