Larry Zielinski graduated from UB in 1975 with a BA in sociology, and stayed to earn an MBA in 1977. He went to work for Buffalo Savings Bank (later Goldome), where he stayed until the savings and loan crisis cost him his job in 1991.
In those 14 years, Zielinski never set foot on the UB campus.
Now, suddenly, in his mid-30s, with a wife and four children (and a fifth on the way), he had no job. “It was a traumatic period.”
And so, he came back to UB. Zielinski started to network. “I had a selfish reason to reconnect. I needed career help.”
By talking with School of Management alumni, getting referrals to others and building up a network, Zielinski made a successful transition to management in the health care sector. His last position in the industry before leaving in 2011 to teach and consult was president of Buffalo General Hospital.
He attributes his success to networking through UB. In fact, the UB connections Zielinski developed were so meaningful to him that he never stopped networking. He joined the School of Management Alumni Association, eventually becoming president. He took a seat on the UB Alumni Association board of directors and ultimately led that organization as well.
Zielinski is now Executive in Residence for Health Care Administration in the School of Management, teaching and representing the school in the community and connecting people to people. While his primary focus is on the UB network in the Western New York area, he also interacts with UB alums in high profile health care jobs all over the country.
In his professional world, the majority of regional physicians, pharmacists, nurses, lawyers, administrators and others he encounters have UB connections and, thereby, connections with each other, either actual or potential. And, as he learned during his own career crisis, those connections count.
“I’ve never been turned down by a UB grad,” he says.
In the community of UB alumni, everyone has at least one thing in common and that’s enough to start a conversation. And that’s the beginning of a network connection.
Four of Larry and Leslie Zielinski’s children are UB alumni. The family holds nine UB degrees. “All our children are still local,” he says, “and their UB degrees enabled them to get good jobs.”
It is as much his pride in the place where he grew up and raised his own family, as his recognition of the importance of UB to Buffalo, that motivated Zielinski to start a scholarship fund to help UB undergraduate and graduate management students from Western New York.
He and Leslie Zielinski named the fund in honor of his father, Stephen J. Zielinski, who died in 1999.
“My father had a small business. He was an optician. He didn’t go to college himself. But he put five kids through college and sent me to management school. I want to leave a lasting tribute to him.”
Larry and Leslie Zielinski started the fund with an endowment gift and add to it every year. Now they’ve committed to further funding through their estate plan.
“It’s give-back time,” Zielinski says today. “Having this university in this town available to a kid like me makes UB a community jewel.”
And he has this message for everyone in the UB network: “Alumni have an obligation to give back!”
Pass it on.