By Joyce O’Connor Davidson
Worcester native J.D. Power III ’53, founder of one of the most prestigious marketing information firms in the world—J.D. Power and Associates—values the quality of his Holy Cross education, and demonstrates his satisfaction by giving to the College. He hopes other alumni will do the same, and, to that end, Power has created a challenge.
He would like to see 55 percent of alumni participate in giving this year to Holy Cross, moving the College closer to the top participation rates at the best liberal arts colleges in the country. Amherst College boasted 61 percent in 2007, and Williams College 63 percent. If alumni achieve 55 percent participation in 2008, Power will give Holy Cross $500,000 to establish paid internships for Holy Cross students to get business experience in Worcester-area organizations.
It is a winning situation all around. If alumni give, the College benefits on multiple fronts, not the least of which would be securing the J.D. Power Internships. Holy Cross student interns will benefit; host organizations will benefit; populations served by the organizations will benefit; the Worcester community will profit; and the College will benefit by increased engagement in local businesses and nonprofit organizations. All it takes is: 55 percent of alumni making a gift of any size to the College by June 30.
J.D. Power has spent his professional life gauging customer satisfaction and product quality, and he sees giving back as a way that alumni can express satisfaction with their educational experience.
Power was born and raised in Worcester—and comes from a long tradition of Holy Cross graduates. He and his father were both “day hops,” and his brother, John, was a member of the Class of 1969. Though Power’s family fared better than some during the Depression—his father was a teacher for more than 40 years at the boys’ trade high school—the family could not afford for him to live on campus.
“It was a different life in those days, coming out of the Depression,” he says. “I learned about the need for living within your means and sharing with people less fortunate. I was brought up in that background.”
This is why, last year, he created The Power Family Scholarship—to make the full educational experience available to qualified Worcester students who might not otherwise get the opportunity.
Following graduation from Holy Cross, Power served four years on a Coast Guard icebreaker in the Arctic and Antarctic—“my dorm experience,” he says—before earning an M.B.A. at the Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania. From there, he joined the Ford Motor Company as an analyst and, later, worked in other positions within the auto and farm equipment businesses, before starting his own market research firm.
Each year, J.D. Power and Associates surveys millions of consumers worldwide. The statistical information gathered is used to judge the quality of a variety of products across many industries, and to gauge customer satisfaction. Through the firm’s research and the publicity of its results, J.D. Power and Associates serves as a vehicle for positive change. “Providing good information to society is more important than ever, now that we’re living in the ‘information age,’” Power notes.
Power says that the public trusted J.D. Power and Associates, even as it grew. That is because the company created “a path of values” that highlighted integrity, independence and impact. When he began working in the automobile industry, Power explains, management was top-down. By the time the information from consumers got back to the top management, it had been massaged. As an independent research group, J.D. Power and Associates has been able to “say it like it is.” He believes that the company had a positive impact on the business environment because it gave voice to the needs of the consumer.
“We provided the voice of the customer,” Power says. “We used the press to spread our word, to get the message from the customer back up to top management—and we had to be independently funded to do that.”
J. D. Power and Associates was a family business right from the start and remained such even after it grew. The business started as a family effort in the living room. Susan Power Curtin ’93 remembers, as a 7-or-8-year-old, sitting with her siblings and her mother, stuffing customer surveys into envelopes. She recalls taping quarters to each survey as an incentive to encourage people to fill out the surveys. Curtin also remembers her father entering the house at night carrying stacks of data to compile.
“I feel fortunate to have been in the trenches,” she says—“to have watched my parents’ sacrifice and hard work—and now to see their success pay off.” Curtin adds that the recent sale of the company to the McGraw-Hill Companies has been wonderful, but a personal “loss” at the same time, because it was such a family effort.
Though the company has been sold, the Powers continue to work together on a new enterprise, a family foundation called The Kenrose Kitchen Table Foundation. Curtin hopes her father can now enjoy the impact of some of his hard work, as he gives resources back to the institutions, people and places that have mattered to him. Holy Cross and Worcester are important to Power, and, coming from a long line of educators, he values education dearly. Answer his call to endorse Holy Cross by giving and, in this way, help current and future students and the local community experience the benefit.