John Steele Chalsty
South African born John Chalsty, once described in Harvard Today as 'chair of (investment bank) Donaldson, Lufkin and Jenrette and member of everything else', has made a considerable mark on the work of finance in the United States since he left South Africa, for two years, to study at Harvard.
Born in Port Elizabeth in 1933, John Chalsty, an only child, moved with his parents to Pretoria at the age of five. There he attended CBC until he reached standard 8, then became a boarder at CBC Kimberley, from which he matriculated.
He chose to study at the University of the Witwatersrand because 'it was simply the best' and graduated with a BSc in chemistry and physics in 1952, a BSc(Hons) in 1953 and an MSc in Chemistry in 1954,alternating his studies with demonstrations of his talent for various forms of sport, particularly rugby. He was a member of the Wits First XV and the Wits Under-19 team and played a season with the Transvaal Under-19 team along with such national greats as Wilf Rosenberg, Clive Ulyate and Joe Kaminer.
At the end of 1954 Chalsty won the Stanvac Scholarship, which was open to all South African graduates, for study in the United States. He attended the Harvard Graduate School of Chemistry for one semester in 1955 and the Harvard Business School (HBS) for two years, starting in April 1955 and graduating with High Distinction in 1957. He was also a Baker Scholar (in the top 3% of the class).
In July 1957 John Chalsty took the first steps in the career that was to propel him to great heights in the corporate world of the United States, give him wealth of business building experience and ensure his position as a prominent and respected figure in the investment banking and securities industry. He joined Standard Oil (New Jersey) - now Exxon - where he worked for twelve years, the last five in Holland and London.
On his return to the US in 1969 he joined Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette (DLJ) as a research analyst, going on to become Head of Research, Head of Investment Banking and, in 1986, President and Chief Executive Officer. In 1996 he became Chairman of DLJ and retained that position until 2000. DLJ was sold to Credit Suisse First Boston. He is now Chairman and co-owner of Muirfield Capital Management, a private hedge fund investment firm.
During his time with DLJ it grew from a small firm with 140 employees to become one of America's most successful investment banks, with more than 11 000 employees and a worldwide presence. With John Chalsty at its head, though, success did not mean all work and no play - he has a reputation for wanting people to have fun - and his personal style engendered loyalty and real affection in his employees.
Chalsty has been described as 'an internationalist with strong connections in the corporate and philanthropic communities' and his interests and involvements range far wider than his professional commitments. He is president of Lincoln Centre Theatre, vice-chairman of the Business Committee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and a member of the boards of St. Barnabas Medical Centre, Colombia University, the American Ballet Theatre, the New York Philharmonic, the Hugh O?Brien Youth Foundation, and Executive Council on Foreign Diplomacy. He served as vice-chairman of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) from 1990 to 1994 and as a NYSE director from 1988-1994.
He is a member of the Board of Directors of Occidental Petroleum Corporation; Metromedia International Group, Inc and Creditex. He is also a member and past president and director of the Financial Analysts Federation. He was also a member of the board of Sappi Ltd.
In 1995 he was chairman of the New York Host Committee for the 50th anniversary of the United Nations.
When he stepped down as CEO of DLJ his colleagues commemorated his nearly thirty years of distinguished service to the firm by establishing the John S and Jennifer A Chalsty Fellowship at the Harvard Business School. The fellowship will be used to support black South African MBA students with the intention, says Chalsty, of helping 'young black South Africans enjoy the privilege of a HBS education' and giving them 'an opportunity to carry its message back to their country'.
Chalsty has bee honoured in numerous ways for his wide-ranging contribution to corporate and civic life in the United States. Among these acknowledgements is the Ellis Island Foundation's Medal of Honor. He has also been honoured by the Citizens Committee for New York City and by the President's Medal for Excellence awarded by Boston College to individuals who have distinguished themselves through personal of professional achievements which exemplify the ideal proclaimed in the University's motto, 'Ever to Excel'.
In 2001 he became Chairman of the United Nations Association of the USA, the nation?s largest grassroots foreign policy organization and the leading centre of policy research on the United Nations and global issues.
In recent years John Chalsty has reconnected with his original alma mater, assuming the chairmanship of the Mandela Institute's USA Advisory Board and extending his philanthropic embrace generously to Wits itself. He was also a supporter of the University of the Witwatersrand Fund, Inc (the USA charitable entity) and chaired, on behalf of the Mandela Institute, a major symposium on capacity building that was attended by representatives of prominent US institutions.
The University takes great pride and pleasure in conferring on John Steele Chalsty the degree of Doctor of Commerce, honoris causa.