Our Man in Budapest, Via DePaul
For Riley Lynch (CMN ’90), study abroad paved the way for a career in the Foreign Service. You never know where in the world a degree from DePaul might take you.
In his junior year, Lynch participated in a study-abroad program in Budapest, Hungary. He had spent months learning to speak Hungarian, and once there, he quickly became enamored of the city and its people. After graduating, Lynch decided to return and for several years taught English to Hungarian students and translated contracts for a post-Soviet-era power company. Lynch also traveled extensively around Central Europe, including frequent trips to Romania and Germany.
His fluency in Hungarian proved to be a valuable asset when he eventually applied for a job at the U.S. Embassy in Budapest. “State Department employees move from post to post every couple of years, so it’s not uncommon for them to have some difficulties with the languages spoken by the locals, much as they try to have a ‘working knowledge’ of the language when they arrive. Because I hadn’t yet joined the Foreign Service, I was hired as a ‘local,’ but I had the advantage of being able to communicate with both the Americans and the Hungarians in their own languages,” Lynch says.
Lynch soon realized that a career in the Foreign Service might just be the perfect thing for him. He could have a great job working for the United States government and the opportunity to indulge his love of travel and curiosity about languages and cultures. He has had postings on three continents. Some of the cities he has lived in include Hong Kong (his favorite so far); Copenhagen, Denmark; Tripoli, Libya; and Karachi, Pakistan. “Nairobi (Kenya) was remarkable. I could look out my office window and see zebras and giraffes in the game park across the way. It was amazing,” Lynch says.
It was in Nairobi that Lynch was able to combine the Vincentian values of giving and service with the State Department’s mission of fostering relationships with and improving conditions for people around the world. After the al-Qaeda bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi in 1998, the wreckage of the building was fenced off while the site was cleaned up. When the fencing was no longer needed, it was going to be discarded. Instead, Lynch arranged for it to be donated to an animal orphanage to help build enclosures for the leopards. The orphanage staff was so appreciative that they gave him an award and held a party in his honor.
Lynch also has been recognized for his hard work with the State Department, most recently with a Meritorious Service Award for work that included overseeing the preparation for a visit from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. It’s a career he loves, and he credits DePaul for fostering the intellectual tools and resourceful thinking it takes to be successful in the field. For the time being, things have come full circle. Lynch has once again been posted to the embassy in Budapest.
DePaul Mission Powers ComEd’s New CEO
In her commencement address at the College of Law in spring 2011, DePaul Trustee Anne Pramaggiore (JD ’89, DHL ’11) challenged each new graduate to pursue “not just a career, but an adventure.”
Pramaggiore’s adventure has taken her from theatre major to law student to lead counsel to COO to her new role as the first woman CEO of Commonwealth Edison, the state’s largest utility. She leads a $6.1 billion electric company that serves approximately 3.8 million customers, or 70 percent of the Illinois population.
“There is no logic to my career path,” she says. “If I see an opportunity to expand and try something different, I take it. I’ve never been afraid of taking on something new. I like it; I’m excited by it.”
Pramaggiore takes the reins at ComEd at a critical point for an industry that, she admits, has not changed much in the past 125 years. “It’s a time of innovation, and for this industry, that almost never happens,” she says.
She was instrumental in getting legislation signed into law authorizing ComEd to invest in a sophisticated “Smart Grid” infrastructure. The groundbreaking legislation promises to improve system reliability, contribute to a greener environment by enabling greater use of solar and wind power, create thousands of jobs building the new grid and provide new ways for consumers to save on their energy bills through the use of smart meters. It also includes a $50 million fund to help low-income customers, seniors and disabled veterans with their utility bills.
The DePaul Current
DePaul has been a powerful current running through Pramaggiore’s career. After graduating from the College of Law, she clerked for U.S. District Judge Charles P. Kocoras (BUS ’61, JD ’69). “He was my first DePaul mentor,” she says. She then spent several years with the Chicago firm McDermott Will & Emery before joining ComEd, where she met her second DePaul mentor, former ComEd CEO Frank Clark (BUS ’72, JD ’76, LLD ’04).
The two worked together on a high-pressure, quick-turnaround project, and Clark was impressed by Pramaggiore’s intelligence and enthusiasm. “He called me up one day and said, ‘What are you doing?’” remembers Pramaggiore, who replied, “I’m working on a brief.” He said, “No, what are you doing with your life?” and invited her to take on the role of lead counsel.
From there, she moved into the regulatory area, where she directed the company’s transition from a monopoly electric company to an electrical distribution utility and a major player in an open and competitive electricity market. In 2007, she helped strike an accord that provided Illinois residents with $1 billion in rate relief while protecting ComEd from potential bankruptcy. She also served as executive vice president of customer operations, regulatory and external affairs and chief operating officer before being named CEO in 2011.
Throughout her career, Pramaggiore has remained humble and dedicated to the Vincentian focus on service to society, which first attracted her to DePaul when she was choosing a law school. “In business, it’s important and expected that you focus on things like profitability, productivity and efficiency,” she says. “What DePaul asks of its students and alumni is to focus on people in everything you do. What value are you bringing to society? How can you improve quality of life?”
Pramaggiore says that her company is tied into the fabric of the communities it serves. “We have a special obligation to our customers because we provide such a critical service. When I talk to people who have been without power for a few days after storms or customers who are struggling with bills, it reminds me that at the end of the day, it’s all about people,” she says. “That makes me think very hard about the decisions I make.”