In April 2013, St. Joseph’s College alumnus Richard T. Margulis ’85 completed his 30-year climb through the ranks of Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center as he succeeded longtime CEO Thomas Ockers. His appointment as president and chief executive officer is a major accomplishment — he was the board of directors’ unanimous choice to fill the position — but he admits that his original career goal was somewhat different.
“To be quite frank, I wanted to be a physician,” he says.
At a young age, his weekends consisted of prepping for hospital procedures and, at times, observing them.
“My mom was an O.R. technician, and every so often she’d let me go into the hospital with her,” Mr. Margulis explains. “I used to get dressed up in scrubs, I would do packs in the operating room and put instruments into this special autoclaving material.” Then, he reveals, his mother would ask the surgeon if he could sit in on the procedure.
“I think at about 11 and a half years of age, I watched my first operation, which was a knee surgery and that was a real thrill,” he says.
Coming from a family of medical professionals, and witnessing miracles inside the operating room, Mr. Margulis was groomed for a career in health care. However, after graduating high school, his parents suggested that he go to trade school to become an X-ray technologist.
“I went to Suffolk for my first year,” Mr. Margulis says. “Then, I went to X-ray school and was accepted into the Northport VA School of X-Ray Technology.” After completing two years as an X-ray trainee, Mr. Margulis worked full-time and put school on hold, until he decided to continue his education.
“I still had a desire to go back to school and pursue the medical field,” Mr. Margulis says. As time went on, he attended Nassau Community College. “The commute from Suffolk was difficult at 7 in the morning,” he continues, “so then I stumbled on St. Joe’s.” His education at the Long Island Campus began in September 1980.
“I think what I immediately enjoyed about St. Joe’s was the atmosphere,” he says. “There was just an environment that was friendly and felt different from what I had previously experienced in college.”
During this time, Mr. Margulis launched his career with the Brookhaven Memorial Hospital in East Patchogue and became a part-time X-ray technologist. It was easy for him to attend school in the daytime, since he worked 4 p.m.-to-midnight shift.
“I began a transition in what I wanted to be when I grew up … I still don’t know what I want to be,” he laughs. “It was 1983, a year and a half before I graduated, and I was sitting in a classroom, listening to one of the instructors, and realized that I could get into management and health care.”
As he started to take his career path more seriously, the love for health care he acquired as a child was brought back to life.
“That same passion was resurrected when I was sitting in the classroom at St. Joe’s,” he says. According to Mr. Margulis, his professors inspired this dramatic change.
“If I reflect back on my education at St. Joe’s, there were many people who influenced me and some that really touched me in a spiritual way, in terms of learning and educating and that made a difference,” he says. “I think that’s what education has to be and that’s what St. Joe’s offered me.
“There were terrific people, who came into my life through that training experience,” Mr. Margulis continues, “and I started to look at my teachers for the value of who they
were. It was Richard Barry, Richard McInenerney and Richard Paganini, who made a tremendous difference in my life.”
For Mr. Margulis, Mr. Barry, who was his adviser at SJC, was very insightful, compasionate and mindful. Meanwhile, Mr. McInenerney removed “all the barriers to being an authority, as opposed to being an educator,” and Mr. Paganini taught him to be comfortable with whom he was through principles of public speaking.
As a whole, St. Joseph’s was a place that stimulated and challenged his mind and Mr. Margulis became more open to other experiences, while being content with his individuality.
“The value of St. Joe’s grew exponentially and I don’t think that happens much in school,” he says.
After graduating SJC in 1985 with a bachelor’s degree in health administration, Mr. Margulis attended Dowling College and earned an Executive Master of Business Administration. “I had a great experience at Dowling and learned a lot,” Mr. Margulis says, “but I will tell you, I have never had an educational experience as I had at St. Joe’s, ever.”
When his years as a student came to a close, Mr. Margulis became a full-time X-ray technologist at Brookhaven, and later was promoted to manager of mental health and alcohol services. From there his career escalated, as he became health care administrator for the South Brookhaven Health Center in Shirley and then senior administrator for both Shirley and Patchogue health centers. Meanwhile, he expanded his horizons by becoming an educator at SJC.
“I was at a function 17 years ago, and I met this very nice, very well-spoken nun,” he says, “and her name was Sister Elizabeth [A. Hill, C.S.J., president of St. Joseph’s].” As the two were introduced, Mr. Margulis explained that he was a proud graduate of the College and would like to try his hand at teaching.
“I think my first class at St. Joe’s was in ’96 and I’ve taught every year from that point forward,” Mr. Margulis says. “I like to teach management courses and Introduction to the U.S. Healthcare Delivery System. I enjoy being in the classroom and hope to keep teaching.”
In regard to his occupation in health care, Mr. Margulis was relocated back to Brookhaven Hospital in July 1996 as vice president of operations. In the years that followed, he was promoted to chief operating officer, senior vice president, executive vice president and now president and CEO of the organization.
Throughout his professional life, Mr. Margulis has viewed every situation as an opportunity to improve himself.
“You don’t have to be an expert, but you have to be able to recognize your shortcomings, correct them, support others and have the best people around you,” he says. “You should always look at something as an opportunity, which leads to embracing change and, when you go to school, you should be open to new ideas. Otherwise, why would you be in school if you knew everything?”
According to Mr. Margulis, great leaders are made over time. They are proactive in their efforts and sustain the courage to stand up, speak out or go against social norms.
“Our times are very difficult and challenging,” he says. “It’s a different environment, and sometimes it’s easier to maintain the status quo than to challenge something. Look at what is in front of you because it’s there and if you want to do something, you can achieve it.
“I’ve reflected a lot on my education and what I learned at St. Joe’s are tools — things that I take into my adulthood — as well as my career and profession that were very important and have helped me be successful,” Mr. Margulis says. “I hope you have it at St. Joe’s, in your careers, in your lives, and you have people who have an influence on you in that way. It is awesome.”
Mr. Margulis is not the only SJC alumnus running the show at Brookhaven Memorial Hospital Medical Center. Lisa Rose ’97, a devoted alumna and trustee of St. Joseph’s College, has sat on the hospital’s board of directors since 2002 and is currently serving as its vice chair. Ms. Rose is the former CEO and president of Clare Rose Inc., a third-generation beer distributor, owned and operated by her family for more than 75 years. Clare Rose employs more than 300 people in Nassau and Suffolk counties.
Ms. Rose started at the company as an office assistant and, like Mr. Margulis did at Brookhaven, climbed the ranks from office manager in Nassau to supervisor of a team of driver salesmen in Suffolk. She was promoted to vice president and general manager in 1997, and was president and CEO from 2003 to 2009. She currently serves on the company’s board, as well as the Culinary Arts Board at Suffolk County Community College.