John Piccione ’76
From the stage to the sidelines, John Piccione has many fond memories of his days on The Hill. He can still remember vividly freezing his legs off while keeping score or clearing the outdoor rink as manager for the hockey team under the legendary Henry Lane ’49 during his first two years at St. Sebastian’s. In the 9th grade, he moved inside to serve as manager of the basketball team for Coach John Borden, while continuing to pursue other interests, including tennis, drama, and The Arrow yearbook, serving as co-editor his senior year.
Along with traditional musicals like The Music Man and Oliver, John recalls his role as one of the two men from Emmaus in an original play written by Fr. Richard Powers and traveling around with the cast to perform in different churches.
The many priests and lay teachers on the faculty, along with the front office staff of Doris Barlow and Dot Curnane, also elicit warm memories. “Morris Kittler was a great influence,” said John. “He got me really interested in biology and worked very hard with us to do well on our achievement tests.” Msgr. Keating (and his black lab, Que-Queg) also stands out among the cast of characters. As the Chaplain for the Boston Fire Department, Keating left an impression when speaking in the Chapel or delivering homilies during Mass at Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Belmont, where John’s family attended.
John felt that the teachers were really invested in his education and making sure that he did well. The academic rigor was intense at times, but he learned how to apply himself to accomplish a goal. In addition to the value of hard work, the value of Christian faith and listening to what’s taught in the Gospel was emphasized. These lessons laid a strong foundation for John, staying with him throughout his career and as father of four children.
After graduating from St. Sebastian’s in 1976, John attended Harvard College where he studied history, a subject he enjoyed along with biology and chemistry during his days as an Arrow. Although he considered teaching history, with the country on the verge of a deep recession there were not many opportunities for newly minted teachers. Encouraged by Lou DiGiovanni P’74,’76,’78,’84,’86, GP’09,’14, his father’s boss at the time, John ultimately settled on the law, graduating from Boston University School of Law in 1983.
Following law school, John began working for a business law firm in Waltham. For the next 8 years, he represented small, rapidly growing companies, getting his feet wet in mergers and acquisitions. In addition to a 3-year hiatus from the law as an investment banker, John worked at two additional firms before joining Thermo Electron in 1998 as a Vice President and Deputy General Counsel.
Today, John serves as Chief Counsel of Mergers & Acquisitions at Thermo Fisher Scientific, the world leader in serving science, with revenues of more than $20 billion and approximately 70,000 employees globally. In managing the legal aspects of the company’s acquisitions and divestitures, John has been involved in hundreds of transactions representing several billion dollars in transaction value. During his 20-year tenure, he has also managed approximately 60 divestitures as part of Thermo Electron’s major restructuring between 2000 and 2002, as well as served as Thermo Fisher’s lead attorney on employment and immigration matters.
The mission of Thermo Fisher is to enable its customers to make the world healthier, cleaner and safer. “What makes me feel good about coming to work every day is that I know that the company I work for actually helps make a real difference in people’s lives, in the sense that if we help to cure cancer or if we help a pharmaceutical company to come up with a new drug to treat diabetes or to treat Alzheimer’s, or to treat one of these major diseases; that’s really meaningful to me,” said John. As a recent example, Thermo Fisher donated $1 million worth of rapid DNA analyzers to support efforts to reunite children and parents recently separated at the U.S.-Mexico border. This breakthrough technology ensuring fast, easy and accurate DNA matching, was developed by a company John was involved in acquiring last March.
In working for a very results-oriented company like Thermo Fisher, John is drawn to looking at results and has been impressed by the outcomes produced by St. Sebastian’s under Headmaster Bill Burke’s leadership over the past 28 years—from the Chapel Speaking program to college matriculation records. He is also pleased that the School has stayed true to its mission. “I think it’s a remarkable place,” said John. “It’s a school that hasn’t wavered from its founding ideals. In fact, if anything, it’s even stronger in terms of reinforcing the original school’s ideals.”
A loyal donor to the St. Sebastian’s Annual Fund, John has always felt it was important to give back to the School that played a role in helping him get where he is today. He and his wife, Noreen, whom he met while they were both studying at Harvard, recently chose to make a generous gift to the Spirit & People Campaign, knowing that their contribution will have a tangible impact as St. Sebastian’s builds its endowment and improves its physical plant. Making the school affordable for students who might not be able to afford it under the circumstances was an important factor, especially in terms of helping to build diversity—a top objective in the business world today. In reflecting on why he was motivated to give, John noted, “It’s not just paying it forward, but it’s paying it forward to a good steward of funds. Shepherded by Bill Burke, the School has delivered results. Why not reward that? It’s as simple as that.”