Throughout his long and successful career running his own consulting firm, which specializes in the development, management, and implementation of major projects in the healthcare sector, Peter J. Romano (B.Arch. ’76) has remained an active member of the New York Tech community. He joined the Board of Trustees in 2011 and served as vice-chair for the past six years. He was named chair of the Board in June 2021. Together with his wife, Jane, Romano supports many philanthropic causes, including a scholarship at New York Tech, Habitat for Humanity, and several education programs for children in need. He is the father of four sons and recently partnered with one of them to plant a grove of olive trees to harvest olives and olive oil.
Romano spoke to The Box about his philosophies on running a consulting firm and his long-term involvement with New York Tech.
Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you come to study at New York Tech?
I grew up in Pelham Manor, N.Y., located just north of New York City in Westchester County. Mine was a close-knit, large extended family. Both of my parents worked full-time and instilled a work ethic in me and my siblings from a very early age. Because I was the one paying for my college education, it made a lot of sense to attend New York Tech. It had an excellent architectural program, and I could attend classes during the day and continue my evening and weekend job as manager of the local movie theatre. It also allowed me to continue working on carpentry jobs in town.
What was the school like in those years?
The architectural students mostly hung out at Ed Hall, and we became a close group of friends. The war in Vietnam was a daily presence, and we had vets in our class who brought a much different, more mature and serious perspective to the class. In hindsight, this made for a good balance and helped me better understand what was happening in the world. The faculty at the time was a great a mix of older professors and younger adjuncts, so the jury comments and advice on our design projects were varied. Of all my professors, I fondly remember Professor King, who was my advisor and really helped keep me focused.
Tell us about Peter J. Romano & Company. When and why did you decide to start your own firm?
For my final year’s thesis at New York Tech, I studied how to deliver mechanical, electrical, and plumbing infrastructure services to operating rooms, allowing walls to be easily reconfigured to address clinical needs. After graduation, I traveled to Los Angeles and worked for a mechanical contractor whose business involved healthcare construction. When I returned to New York, I worked for a mechanical engineering firm that also specialized in healthcare design. Through this job, I was given the opportunity to work for an architectural firm with whom we consulted, and it, too, specialized in designing hospitals and other healthcare-related facilities.
When it comes to designing, constructing and commissioning hospitals, it takes many years to complete a single project, so while working on these projects, I was exposed to many other aspects of the architectural profession. Gradually, my interests moved from the design of buildings to the management of projects. I was fortunate to have a wonderful mentor while working on one hospital project, and he involved me in every facet of a capital construction program, far beyond the architect’s traditional duties and responsibilities.
It was during this time I recognized that many of our clients did not have the expertise, experience, or staff to undertake a major hospital project, and it was very apparent that these clients needed someone to advocate on their behalf and protect their interests. So, in 1986, with our first son on the way, I quit my job at the architectural firm and started Peter J. Romano & Company, working directly with hospital leadership to assist them in undertaking and navigating major capital building programs.
You recently were appointed as the new chair of the Board of Trustees, but you have been serving the New York Tech community for a long time. Can you tell us about that experience?
Serving on the board has been an honor for me and a very personal pleasure. I have tremendous admiration for my fellow trustees, for all they have achieved in their careers, and their continued willingness to give their time and their resources to the betterment of the school. Their advice and insight on issues confronting the university have consistently been levelheaded and even-handed. Nothing demonstrated this more than how the board worked with the administration to navigate the issues brought about by the pandemic. I have learned a tremendous amount just by being able to listen to their deliberations, and I hope I can continue to learn more.
Another advantage to being a member of the board has been the opportunity to meet and work with many of the senior administrators and faculty. Their dedication to the well-being and success of this university never fails to impress me, especially with the personal sacrifices they have made due to COVID.
Why it is so important to you to stay connected to the university?
It is my desire to ensure the school has the resources to continue to provide an education that will allow our students to attain their ambitions and dreams—personally and professionally. My education provided me with that advantage, and it should be continued to be available for all of our students. President Foley has laid out a vision for our university to make Tech one of the best places of higher education in the region, and I am very committed to assisting him in every way I can to reach this goal.
What advice do you have for students or young professionals just starting out?
Allowing indecision is the worst decision you can make. Pick a direction and move on it. If it turns out to be wrong, reassess your options, select a new direction and move on. No one ever guaranteed we would get everything correct on the first try.