Joseph Berardino ’72 sees parallels between leadership and classic Greek tragedies. “There are incredible calamities,” he said recently in an interview with The Mirror, “but the focus is not that there was trouble, but what you did with it, where you went from there.”

Berardino is still remembered in business circles for one major calamity: He was CEO of Anderson Worldwide, one of the “Big 5” accounting firms, at the time when one of its biggest clients, Enron, collapsed in 2002 in what was one of the largest bankruptcy scandals in U.S. history, leaving many people unemployed.

“I was the CEO of the company, and when we got in trouble I was the voice of our firm,” said Berardino, who tried mightily to explain the situation to both the media and Congress. “In a crisis, the only thing you can do is lead with your values; you can’t cover up or spin it.”

Read about Berardino’s “Fall from Grace”

After graduating from Fairfield in 1972 with a degree in accounting, Berardino joined Arthur Andersen. He stayed active in the University community, becoming a member of the Board of Trustees in 1992. Meanwhile, he also moved up the ranks at Andersen, making a name for himself in important negotiations, and finally assuming the position of CEO of Anderson Worldwide.

Even when Anderson went out of business, Berardino continued work with Fairfield.

“Fairfield was an anchor in the process,” said Normon Solomon, dean of the Dolan School of Business.

At Fairfield, Berardino, now 56, has given numerous lectures, set up scholarship funds in his name, and been an active on the Board of Trustees and the finance committee.

He and his wife also took on roles as mentors in the Loyola Residential College program, where Berardino said he learned a lot from the students, and said that the question, “Whose am I?” – one focus of the Loyola community – is one that he has found to be very applicable in his leadership experience and life.

“I think leaders should spend time considering ‘Whose am I?’ When thinking about who’s looking up to me, relying on me; it’s staggering,” said Berardino.

Trouble in the accounting industry had been brewing for years, according to Fairfield professor Lisa Newton, director of the applied ethics program who also wrote a case study on the situation. Accounting firms had expanded into the consulting field. This transition was lucrative but also lent itself to shaky territory; the client who was being audited by a firm had a rather conflicting degree of influence because it was also the employer of the consultants from the same firm.

Much of the scandal had been perpetuated before Berardino took the position of CEO. Additionally, the Anderson branch that headed the auditing of Enron had been given direct orders by headquarters to clean up its practices, Newton said. Unfortunately, the orders were ignored.

Berardino tried fervently to save Andersen’s reputation, explaining to the media and Congress that the wrongdoing performed by the rogue branch was not a reflection on the entire Andersen firm.

Berardino received a lot of publicity and what Newton referred to as “an unwarranted public hanging.”

Click for Forbes article, “Berardino Resigns from Andersen”

Reactions at Fairfield University were generally supportive, and Berardino remained on the Board of Trustees.

An event at the Dolan School of Business in 2003, the seeds for Berardino’s most recent business venture, were planted. This event initiated Berardino’s involvement working as the CEO of Profectus Biosciences Inc., a start-up bio-tech company that is currently working to combat HIV.

Berardino’s essential role is setting up the business side of this up-and-coming company, focusing on financial growth and on governance.

“He just keeps moving forward; it’s impressive,” said Solomon. “It’s been a tough road, but he’s dealt with it in a superior manner, with class and distinction.”

“When you’ve tried to live with a set of values, try to be honest and smart as you can be when you make a decision, people will respect that at the end of the day,” said Berardino. “But you may be criticized; that comes with being a leader.”

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