Whitman’s Earliest Ph.D. Graduate Reflects on Experience Over 50 Years Later

Eli Seggev ’69 recalls one of his best days at Syracuse University, a story that he claims will forever be imprinted on his brain. Seggev reminisces, “The office of the business school was called Lubin Hall and it was across from the main campus. It was in a residential home but turned into office space.”

He continues, “When you submit a dissertation, there is a committee and they give you an oral exam to defend your work. My oral exam was in the basement of Lubin Hall, which was sort of dark. I walked into a room and took a seat with a circle of professors around me, most were part of my committee, and some from other places like the Maxwell or Newhouse School. They questioned me for over an hour and then once they were finished, they asked me to wait in another room. Five minutes later, Dean Valenti, who headed the committee, extended his hand to me and said, ‘Congratulations Doctor Seggev.’”

Seggev recalls crying tears of relief and joy the day he successfully defended his dissertation. He says, “I will remember that forever. I am grateful to the University for giving me that opportunity.” His research focused on brand loyalty and later won the American Marketing Association Dissertation Award.

The Beginning

Seggev traveled to the United States in 1963. “I came as a foreign student after earning my undergraduate degree in Israel. I studied sociology and political science because I wanted to be a diplomat as I was growing up,” he reminisces.

Once he arrived in the U.S., Seggev earned an MBA at the University of Michigan. Ironically, one of the textbooks that he used was co-authored by Bill Wasserman, a Syracuse University statistics professor from which Seggev would learn.

Seggev knew he wanted to continue his experience in higher education. He says, “I talked to my statistics my professor at the University of Michigan, Alan Spivey, and I told him I want to earn a Ph.D. in marketing but with an emphasis on quantitative methods. He advised me not to stay at Michigan and he called Bill to see if he would take me as a candidate.”

“I came to Syracuse in December of 1965– Christmas time. I loved Syracuse, the only problem was that even though I came from Michigan, there was a gigantic snowstorm as I drove from Ann Arbor to Syracuse. When I got to Syracuse there were 16 inches of snow on the ground. I remember I had to go out and get a shovel because our baby boy was only three-months-old and needed milk,” recalls Seggev.

He jokes, “I became an expert while I was in Syracuse in shoveling snow.”

A Student and Teacher

Seggev joined a PhD cohort with four other individuals. He fondly remembers eating with his colleagues and co-workers in the faculty dining room each day. “There was collegiality and an understanding that we were all good people trying to do good work,” says Seggev.

“I was a research assistant for a very short time then I was a teaching assistant. Throughout the program, I taught marketing to undergraduates, as well as to the executive MBA students,” shares Seggev. “Sometime during the course of my stay there, I was assigned to the executive MBA program that was conducted in Utica, we had a branch there at the time and it was close to a GE and Chrysler facility. The evening program was thriving with executives from those companies at the time.”

Seggev did not only teach business executives. He also recalls, “On one of the first days of classes, I walked into the classroom where the door was in the back of the room. Two rows down I see a giant back of a head, like I’ve never seen before with a neck that was immense. It attracted my attention as I walked to the front of the classroom. I noticed it was Floyd Little, a famous Syracuse football player.”

Seggev was enthusiastic about teaching during his time at Syracuse University’s School of Management because it was helping him lay a foundation for an academic career.

Aside from teaching, Seggev also became a notable researcher. He recalls how helpful the School of Management community was during his endeavors, sharing,

“In 1968 when I needed to use a computer for research, there was a big IBM System/360 machine in the computer center, which used a language I was unfamiliar with called Fortran. I talked to Dean Valenti who was my mentor, and I told him my problem. He said ‘We have some small grants; one is for $500 that you can use for any discretion. Why don’t you hire one of the engineering students to help you do that and continue with your dissertation?’”

Life After Graduation

Following the completion of his Ph.D. degree program, Seggev joined the faculty full-time at the School of Management.

He explains, “My wife at the time was working on her Ph.D. and was one year behind me. I stayed in Syracuse as an assistant professor for that year after graduation. It was another example of the good relations and good heart of the people in the business school that accommodated my personal needs. After that, I continued my academic experience and we moved to the New York City area.”

Over the next several years, Seggev served as a professor at Long Island University, the Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College and Pace University, which he recalls served many Wall Street executives.

Beyond Teaching

“From the very early stages after graduating, I was attracted to the practical and academic world. I showed early signs of entrepreneurship. In my third year, after graduation, I took a position in marketing research with a large company headquartered in New York City. I stayed there for three years to learn the ropes of the marketing research profession. Then, I worked some more at a premiere ad agency, Benton & Bowles,” shares Seggev.

In 1979, Seggev began his own marketing research company, which he sold to a British organization three years later. Seggev says, “I became a little lonely not having my own company and I didn’t want to take direction from someone else. I ended that relationship and started a new company called Marketing Strategy and Planning, known as MS&P. That was the name of the course I taught at Pace University; it wasn’t a unique name.” In 1999, Seggev sold that company as well to a British organization that was acquiring U.S. businesses. 

In the early 2000s, Seggev was using his entrepreneurial skills again. He shares, “I was asked by a colleague to help him out. His son was an attorney and they opened a company. I joined them for a few years and then I started my own consultancy called called IPSurveyResearch.com that consults attorneys and provides survey research, which helps trademark infringement cases. We interview hundreds of people and I testify in courts as an expert in the field.  I’ve been doing that for the past 20 years or so.”

For the last two years, Seggev has been developing a revolutionary product that allows social media users to understand their online identity. HOO-R-U allows participants to answer a short survey and receive feedback about their online habits and characteristics.

The Orange Legacy Lives On

Seggev did his part to spread the Syracuse University legacy. He remembers, one day Dean Valenti called him to his office.

“I originally come from Israel. One day, Dean Valenti gave me a paper from an Israeli Ph.D. applicant. He couldn’t read the record of studies form or interpret what the grades meant, so I had to explain,” shares Seggev. “This happened close to the end of the school year and I was going to Israel that summer, so I told him I’d be happy to interview the fellow and report back to him. I met the applicant in Israel and I was impressed.”

He continues, “When I came back to the U.S, I told Dean Valenti that it would be nice to admit the man into the Ph.D. program. That applicant was accepted and returned to Israel as a professor but also taught at Northwestern University and in Singapore. He spread the word about Syracuse to the world.”

Seggev hopes to return to his alma mater soon. “I have visited Syracuse once in the early 80s. That’s one thing I want to correct once I can move my bones from my home,” he says.

Seggev adds, “I think the school has always been a warm home for a lot of people, faculty and students.”

Learn more about Whitman alumni in the latest alumni profiles.

Maya Bingaman
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