Fairfield Now - Spring 2008
Class of '86 profile:
Ray Martinelli: Museum business
By Nina M. Riccio
|Ray Martinelli in MoMA's gift shop|
In hindsight, Ray Martinelli said, you never know how the various bits and pieces of your life and education will come together. How could he have known, for example, that his study-abroad experience during his junior year, his FUSA role as chair of the arts and lecture committee or, later, his early job experience for retail products, would magically combine to prepare him for the position he holds today - director of finance and operations at New York's Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).
It was the high school guidance counselor in his hometown of South Windsor, Conn., who pushed Martinelli to apply to Fairfield, telling him, "This is the right place for you." It turns out he was right. "Fairfield was not only an incredible experience for the four years I was there, but I've kept in touch with so many great people that it continues to be a big part of my life," said Martinelli. A finance major with a minor in information systems, Martinelli's pursuits weren't all of the left-brain variety. He took French classes and spent a semester in France, honing his language skills and delving into art history. And he learned to write, an invaluable skill that was stressed in all his classes.
He joined FUSA's arts and lectures committee, which brought major talents such as drummer Max Weinberg, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, hypnotist James Mapes, and photographer Jacob Holdt to campus.
Martinelli began his working life at a bank, then was recruited by Coach, the high-end leather goods company, which had just been acquired by Sara Lee. "It was a great time to be there, because Sara Lee was investing a lot of money to grow the company, and Coach was a very hot product. I not only got experience in branded consumer products, I got my MBA at Fordham while there," he said. A similar role at his next company, Chanel, had him dusting off his college-level French. "For years, I traveled to France and Italy every few months, and having some language skills really opened up opportunities for me," he said.
As enviable as the job sounds, Martinelli was eager to switch gears by the time the opportunity at MoMA came his way, a position that artfully brought together all of his past learning and experiences.
"It's proven to be an incredible move," said Martinelli. "Unlike my previous firms, this is a smaller retail business within a large institution, which makes things more exciting and more challenging. Because of our size, we have to wear many hats. We might have to choose between new initiatives and focus on what's really going to give us the most impact." Martinelli does the budgeting and business planning for MoMA; he's also found himself in charge of retail operations, which means having oversight for MoMA's three stores. While there are merchants who do the buying, "One piece I've been able to bring to the table is structure – setting goals and performance metrics, measuring outcomes. I learned a lot of that from my previous experience, as well as from Fairfield and Fordham." And then there are the perks, such as lunchtime seminars with curators who educate the staff on various artists or new exhibits. "I've always had an interest in art, but now it's a hobby and I'm not afraid to acquire something that catches my eye."
Martinelli, his wife Catherine, and their three children continue to see the old gang from Fairfield, vacationing with them regularly, though he's quick to acknowledge the loss of two fellow classmates, Joe Heller and Mike Lunden, both class of '86, who died on 9/11. "I've had some great mentors in the workplace," he said. "But honestly, I think my friends from Fairfield have had the greatest impact on me. It may sound trite but it is sincere."