In his professional life as in every other aspect of his life, John McNulty was a force of nature – a person overflowing with vitality, love, conviction and total commitment.
Interactions with John were never dull – debating inspired him and gave him limitless opportunities to flex his intellectual muscle. He was unable to engage in anything or with anyone without immersing his total self – mind, body and spirit.
Some described it as intensity – an enthusiasm that John brought to every enterprise. He had great vision and held himself and others to the highest standards in executing that vision. He did everything wholeheartedly. While for competitors it meant almost certain defeat, for clients it meant great advice and flawless execution. For colleagues it meant a committed mentor who brooked no trace of mediocrity, but who gave everything of himself to inspire, cajole and challenge in order to help people advance to and beyond their potential. And for family and friends, it meant steadfast loyalty.
Perhaps it was his Irish heritage. Born in 1952, John was the first of six children of Nora and Charles McNulty, who had newly emigrated from Donegal, Ireland. In a touch of irony given his later career, John’s mother's first job was as a housekeeper for a Wall Street investment banker. His father worked as a landscaper and a truck driver. John grew up in a row house in southwest Philadelphia, where his parents entrusted him to pay the mortgage and to buy meat from the butcher. The lessons he learned – how business worked, but more importantly how to interact with a wide range of people – never left him.
John met Anne Welsh at the first dance of his sophomore year at Cardinal O’Hara High School, and they began a singular, intense, devoted partnership that would last for 37 years. At Saint Joseph’s University, John relished the opportunity to engage a wide range of friends and interests. He entered the university as a somewhat shy history major, running on the track and cross country teams, but he soon switched majors to business and turned his energies to student government, where he served for three years and was elected president of the student body. After graduation in 1974, John joined the accounting firm Arthur Andersen, earning his CPA. He and Anne both earned their MBAs from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 1979.
"The McNulty Scholars Program moves the curiosity of women forward. Their curiosity is reinforced by family, educators, mentors, and the generosity of the McNulty/Welsh families plus the receptivity of these young women to ask the questions; the courage to move into a discipline of science methodology that creates meaning for themselves and others."
After graduation John joined Goldman Sachs. He became a partner of Goldman Sachs in 1990, and was named co-head of its Asset Management Division in 1994. He then headed the newly created Investment Management Division in 1998. Under John’s leadership, Goldman Sachs built a global investment management business that became a significant and integral part of the firm.
"In the annals of the history of Goldman Sachs, pages will be written about John McNulty. Through the sheer force of his person John was the primary architect and the leading builder of an asset management business, which is now an essential and very successful component of the Goldman Sachs franchise. John’s intellect was awesome; joined with his innate common sense and an uncommon wisdom about people, he was the guy whose judgment you sought. No one read a person or a situation faster or more accurately than did John McNulty. His understanding of the complexities of people and his emotional maturity made him not only a great raconteur, which he was, but a great assessor of talent. "
At every step of his career, John delighted in serving as a mentor to younger associates, creating opportunities for them, and marveling at their talents. He was a firm believer in the power of women to achieve greatness in their chosen field. He inspired them to take risks, and challenged them to tackle problems creatively and enthusiastically. Like a proud parent, he drew intense satisfaction in their accomplishments and attributed his successes to their efforts.
In 2001, after a 23-year career, John retired from Goldman Sachs to spend more time with his family, and to shift his focus from doing well to doing good. At Saint Joseph’s University, where John served on the board of trustees and on the finance committee for over 10 years, John became the honorary chair of the New York executive council. He also served on the board of trustees of University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.
Characteristically, John threw himself full-force into new pursuits. He joined the board of the Aspen Institute. He engaged in their seminars, and joined in the planning for the new building on the Aspen campus.
"Leadership was what John McNulty was all about. He was a great mentor to people. He loved the idea of leadership, and as we were building our leadership network, it was his enthusiasm that inspired us."
He joined the board of trustees of the Metropolitan Opera of New York and naturally, the Investment Committee. He loved the beauty of the sets and costumes, the brilliance of the performers, and the drama of the operas themselves. John became an active board member of the New York University Child Study Center, committed to the Center’s objective of helping children and families cope with mental health and learning issues. Together with Anne, John also became patron of a small Catholic school in New York’s Chinatown - St Joseph’s School. John took a direct interest in the activities of the students, especially recent immigrants, and proposed various creative ways to recruit new students, including creating and publicizing merit scholarships.
"John’s energy, his quick mind, and his desire to share what he knew challenged me and everyone at St Joseph’s to excel. But he also allowed us to be who we are as a school community and as individuals."
He and Anne also became trustees of the Naples Winter Wine Festival, a private organization that runs the largest charity wine auction in the world, for the benefit of the underprivileged and at-risk children of Collier County, Florida.
John died suddenly in late 2005, leaving an enormous absence. The John P. McNulty Scholars Program for Excellence in Math and Science has been created by his family, friends and colleagues to recognize his commitment to mentoring, supporting and challenging women to reach their fullest potential, his contributions in leadership, his creativity, his energy, and the spark he carried to ignite that in others.