Norman Axelrod ’74 shared with the Introduction to Business in a Global Environment class that he didn’t always know that he was going to be a businessman. In fact, he entered Lehigh as a student in the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. After deciding that wasn’t the path for him, he transferred into the College of Business and Economics and double majored in marketing and management. Now the president of Nax 18, LLC, a private consulting services company related to the global asset management company Ares Management LLC, the successful businessman said it was the best decision for him.
“I loved the idea that Lehigh did have this business school, because I wasn’t 100 percent clear that I wanted to be an engineer,” he said. “So the idea that it had a great business school on top of a great engineering school was an important piece for me and turned out to be really critical.”
Axelrod told students that learning what they do like and don’t like is what will shape them in college and in life. That is why, he said, it’s so important for students to have internships before they go into the workforce — it makes them more competitive and helps them determine what they want from their careers. He stressed the importance of having a clear vision for success and surrounding themselves with great people.
“I met a group of people at Lehigh who took me from a high school kid to being prepared for a career, and the fraternity system helped me a lot,” he said, referring to being a member of Sigma Alpha Mu. “The quality of your teachers and the quality of your friends make the whole experience.”
After graduating from Lehigh and later from New York University in 1976 with an M.B.A. degree, Axelrod served in various positions at Bloomingdale’s, including that of senior vice president. He later joined Linens-N-Things as president and chief executive officer. When it became an independently traded company on the New York Stock Exchange, he also became chairman. After Linens-N-Things was sold to a private equity firm, Axelrod became chairman of the board of General Nutrition Centers, Inc., as well as a director of Jaclyn Inc. and Maidenform Brands.
“There is absolutely no one way to success,” Axelrod said. “You can’t plan everything you think you want to do in your career, but the harder you work, the luckier you get.”
Jim Santanasto, director of the Rauch Center for Business Communications and coordinator of the class, remarked that the interaction between students and alumni is an integral dimension of the business school experience at Lehigh and that alumni at all stages of their careers are invited to the classroom at every opportunity.
“With Norman Axelrod’s real-world business stories, he illustrated to our students what it takes to be successful in the highly competitive, global business world,” said Santanasto.
Axelrod and his wife, Alison, are generous supporters of the university and are members of the Tower Society and the Asa Packer Society, Lehigh’s top giving societies. They established the Axelrod Family Fellowship and the Alison and Norman H. Axelrod ’74 Endowment Fund, both of which support faculty in the College of Business and Economics. They have also provided support that enables early-career faculty members in marketing, economics, and management to focus on summer research.
Photos by Tulani Bey ’20