St. Joseph University School Alumnus Returns to Share his Downs and Ups
How does a man who was "asked to leave" two different high schools grow up to become president and chief executive officer of two international banks, manage over a thousand employees and socialize with a queen? "Luck," says author and St. Joseph University School alumnus, Patrick Blewett.
Earlier this spring, seventh and eighth grade students at St. Joseph's were treated to an inspirational lecture based on the author's life story followed by a question and answer session.
The self-made businessman spent 33 years in financial services rising to president and chief executive officer of MBNA International, a $2.6 billion dollar credit card bank in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Following that, he was president and chief executive officer of Bank One International, which he expanded in Ottawa, and Cardiff, Wales. He returned to MBNA and retired in 2003.
Blewett attended St. Joseph University School from 1952 to 1960 where he met and years later, married his wife, Terry. They have been married for 44 years; have two children and three grandchildren. A current native of South Carolina, Blewett often visits family in Buffalo. On a recent visit, while driving up Main Street past St. Joseph's, he spontaneously made a u-turn and pulled into the school parking lot.
During his impromptu visit that day Blewett was impressed by the atmosphere in the school and the confidence of the students. He volunteered to meet with students to discuss his book and his life - the ups and downs - to help inspire students to their possibilities. He also experienced a flood of wonderful memories of his time spent there. "We had wonderful teachers, mostly nuns then and our pastor coached us in basketball. In summer we played stickball and in winter we played hockey in the street right in front of my house just down Main Street. It was a great life."
The book, originally slated to be a private chronicle for his children and grandchildren, "A Lucky Boy from Buffalo," tells the story of a young man whose life could have gone terribly wrong had he not seen and taken opportunities that came his way. The pivotal episode occurred when he was "asked to leave" the second of two high schools because of his lackadaisical attitude. "From that day on I knew I had to make a change; to keep my focus on making something of myself for my future. I didn't know how I was going to do it, but I knew I would be successful."
With few job prospects for a 17 year old in Buffalo, young Blewett talked his mother into signing the paperwork necessary for him to join the army. This was during the Vietnam War, but luckily after basic training, he was assigned to a base nestled peacefully in the Alps. "I had a view like something out of The Sound of Music right outside my window." said Blewett. I listened, learned and grew up a lot in those years. But I felt the need to go to Vietnam, so I asked for a transfer." When his first request was denied, Blewett waited a while then asked again. The second time the request was accepted.
After two tours in Vietnam, Blewett came home with a determination to avoid mistakes and correct missteps.
Blewett said he got lucky. "I met some great people along the way that mentored and trusted me and respected my work ethic. But, my life has not been all successes. "I've been up and I've been down. Up is better."
Thanks to the WNYCatholic for their contributions to this story.