T-Shirts Build New Jersey Pride

Here are some nuggets from Thursday’s Princeton chamber lunch:

The record for eating oysters is 102 in two minutes (apropos of the February 6 Oyster Bowl, the annual fundraiser for the Susan G. Komen Foundation staged by restaurateur and chamber board member Jack Morrison).

Bob Hillier, architect and chamber chairman, has found a way to do business with eight chamber member businesses (apropos of how chamber membership is about giving business as well as getting business).

Jeff Vanderbeek, owner of the New Jersey Devils and the luncheon speaker (above), effectively used his Wall Street background in several ways. He didn’t say, but it goes without saying, that he exited Lehman Brothers at the right time. He has wealth and was willing to risk some of it for the good of Newark.

His father had advised him to divide his life into three segments: “learn,” “earn,” and “return,” and now he is in the third phase.

But my ears pricked up when he talked about buying steel for the $400 million new stadium, the first to open in the tri-state area in three decades. Vanderbeek knew enough about the futures market to buy his steel ahead of time. By the time he needed it, Katrina had come along, and the price had skyrocketed.

Freelance reporter Wendy Plump covered the speech well in the Times of Trenton and included a couple more of my favorite comments, such as the story about how — whe
never newspaper headlines prophesied doom for the Prudential stadium — Vanderbeek put those headlines on T-shirts and distributed them to the construction workers: “It’s great to have an enemy because you can galvanize your foes…Management walked around with a smile because your troops have to see you looking cheery. It was us against the world. It was us against the naysayers. You have to will your way through it sometimes.” The stadium came through on time and on budget.

Vanderbeek also pointed out that his team is the only one to wear the state name on their shirts.
Who taught him how to motivate a team? My guess is, he learned it playing high school sports. The inside joke of the day was that Vanderbeek and Larry Krampf, past chamber chairman (shown at right with Cheryl Durst), had played on rival football teams in high school. In one hard-fought game they collided on the field, and Krampf walked away minus his two front teeth.

Krampf must have had a good dentist. Larry, your teeth look terrific now.

PS Thanks to Present Company for the luncheon dessert — elegant boxed chocolates on each table.

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