HONORARY DEGREE RECIPIENTS
Michael R. Bloomberg
Mayor of the City of New York, founder of financial-information and media company Bloomberg L.P., and noted philanthropist
[ Biography | Honorary Degree ]
Michael R. Bloomberg is the 108th mayor of New York City and the founder of Bloomberg LP, the leading provider of financial information to companies, news organizations, financial and legal professionals, and individuals around the world. To say he has been a success at both careers would be an understatement.
In an editorial endorsing him for a second term as mayor, the New York Times wrote, "If he continues his record of accomplishment over the next four years, he may be remembered as one of the greatest mayors in New York history. The reason is as stark as it is simple: In nearly every area you want to pick, Bloomberg has made life better for New Yorkers."
While he has excelled as mayor, Bloomberg first became known as a businessman, making his name synonymous with efficiency and success. He created a company that has expanded from providing quick, reliable computer information to a network of news, publishing, TV, and radio broadcast services. Today Bloomberg LP is a $1 billion empire employing thousands of people around the world.
Bloomberg was born in Brighton, Massachusetts, on February 14, 1942, and grew up in Medford, Massachusetts, in a family of modest means. His father was a bookkeeper for a dairy company, and the young Bloomberg became an Eagle Scout. He graduated from Johns Hopkins University in 1964 with a degree in electrical engineering and helped pay his way through school by parking cars.
After earning an MBA from Harvard Business School, he went to work for Salomon Brothers in 1966 and in just six years was made a partner and put in charge of the company's information systems. When the company was bought out, he took his stock options and in 1981 began his own company. It had long bothered him that the only way to check on how a stock had been traded over time was to dig through the archives of the Wall Street Journal. He began to build an electronic data system that provided clients with immediate access to financial information.
Bloomberg also became known for another endeavor, his philanthropy. He has donated money to educational institutions and medical research as well as the arts, museums, parks, children, the homeless, and numerous other groups and causes.
Despite his business and philanthropic accomplishments, Bloomberg began eyeing a second career. In a speech he gave last year, he said, "I began to notice friends in public service had a glint in their eyes. They'd found a satisfaction—the satisfaction of helping others, the satisfaction that I had never experienced. So I made another choice about five years ago: to seek a new career by running for mayor of one of the greatest cities in the world. Every political expert said I had no shot, which was, of course, like waving the proverbial red flag in front of a bull."
Although he had never held elective office, Bloomberg was elected mayor in 2001 and quickly became known for his strong managerial style and competence. Four years later, the New York Times wrote: "His greatest achievement has been to teach New Yorkers that good government is not a zero-sum game, that even in a city where every neighborhood, block, and building jealously guards some ancient prerogative, change can make things better for everybody."
He has been praised for winning control of New York City's schools and for ending the practice of social promotions while still seeing students' test scores rise. During his tenure, the city's crime rate has fallen, and he has been a tough bargainer with city employees. He is proud of his decision to ban smoking in public places. Bloomberg also revamped the city's property tax code, turning the city's $6 billion deficit into a $3.6 billion surplus while increasing New York's commitment to affordable housing.
In 2005, he was re-elected in a landslide victory and continues to enjoy approval ratings of 70 percent. He has asked for a salary of $1 a year as mayor and rides the subway to work each day, not from the mayor's residence at Gracie Mansion, but from his own apartment on the Upper East Side. He enjoys encountering New Yorkers on the subway, some of whom, he has noted wryly, say hello or smile, while others just sleep.
Tufts will award Bloomberg an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree.
This story originally ran on May 20, 2007.