The Adventure of Auersperg
While Paul Auersperg’s role as CEO of Fortune Footwear Inc. has taken him all over the world, he hasn’t lost sight of his alma mater.
When Paul Auersperg ’86 looks back on his experiences at SUNY Brockport, “adventure” is the word that comes to mind. Now the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of an $80 million footwear and manufacturing company, his adventure has extended all over the world, including several stops back at his alma mater.
Auersperg graduated with a degree in business administration soon after his Long Island–based family founded Fortune Footwear Inc. in the SoHo district of Manhattan. After starting out as a sales associate, Auersperg cultivated the company’s major catalogue accounts. Now under his leadership, Fortune Footwear continues to provide highly competitive products and services to retail chains, shopping networks, and celebrity buyers across the globe.
After growing up in a small town, Brockport is where Auersperg began fostering a global mindset that continues to serve him well. As a college student in a new environment, he developed an impulse to diversify his interactions.
“The ability to integrate with people who sound different from you, look different from you, and have different interests than you is an important skill in the business world,” said Auersperg.
While at Brockport, Auersperg took a history course with Professor Emeritus John Killigrew, who inspired his early interest in Asian culture.
“Since being in the footwear and manufacturing business, I’ve been to China more than 200 times,” said Auersperg. “Dr. Killigrew, who was a master of the far East, first opened up the door to the other side of the world for me.”
Auersperg attributes his success in a global economy to the relationship-building skills he learned while at Brockport: trust, communication, respect, empathy, adaptation, and patience.
“Both personal and professional relationships require certain skills to maintain, and I learned those skills at Brockport,” said Auersperg. “I’m proud of my long-term relationships: those with my employees, my customers, my suppliers, my 29-year marriage, and my friends I went to school with 30 years ago.”
Auersperg’s college friends are not the only Brockport connections he has sustained since graduating. For the past five years, the now Tribeca–based CEO has become increasingly involved with the College’s School of Business and Management Dean’s Advisory Board. He has returned to campus to deliver an entrepreneurship lecture to business students; to sit in on a business class; and to network with students, faculty, and staff.
The students are even coming to him. Fortune Footwear has been a staple stop during the College’s annual student-alumni excursion trip in New York City, co-hosted by the Office of Alumni Engagement, the Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, and Career Services.
In addition to teaching his student visitors his formula for success — good planning, extra hard work, and the ability to learn from mistakes — he conveys the importance of building connections and maintaining enthusiasm in the working world.
“I think students need a real-life interpretation of what’s going on in the work environment and not just in the classroom,” said Auersperg. “I try to inspire them by speaking to them about how to prepare for it and what to expect.”
Because of his commitment and dedication to the College and the Alumni Association, Auersperg was one of three Brockport graduates to be recognized this year with the Association’s most prestigious Alumni Award, the Hall of Heritage, which honors distinguished alumni for their exceptional contributions to the College and outstanding professional achievement.
Auersperg feels his greatest memories of Brockport are his most recent ones. “I’ve been out of SUNY Brockport for 30 years,” he said, “and I could not feel more connected.”